Imagine your body. You have hundreds of thousands of veins, arteries, and capillaries, running all under your skin. Those veins, arteries, and capillaries carry blood all over to bring oxygen and other necessary nutrients to the muscles and everything else. Desert washes act the same way. Hundreds of thousands of washes criss-cross the desert. During monsoon season, water rushes through them, bringing water and nutrients all over to the plants.
Washes begin at the tallest place in the desert. Here in Usery, the watershed starts at Pass Mountain. When the rain starts, the water finds the path of least resistance and starts eroding the rock away to create a channel for the water to run through. The water follows the channel down to the desert, where it continues to follow the path of least resistance. The erosion creates washes.
Washes aren’t just for carrying water. They act as a highway for animals and a fertile growing place for plants such as the Palo Verde and the Ironwood. It’s much easier for an animal to travel through a wash then bushwhack through plants. It also harder for predators to spot animals in a wash. Animals can scurry from plant to plant and hide under the branches hanging down to the ground.
Animals don’t just travel down a wash; they also make their home in it. When the water comes rushing down during a monsoon, the water bounces all over the walls of the wash, creating little nooks and crannies that animals can use as homes. Animals can also dig farther in, creating an even bigger cave. Bobcats, coyotes, packrats, mice, and javelinas are examples of animals that live in the caves of a wash.
Washes are vital to the desert. Every living thing needs water to live, and washes bring that to them. Places to live and travel are also provided by the wash. Every living thing in the desert benefits from a wash. Many are sustained by it. The wash is one of the most important features of the desert. Without it, most of the creatures and plants wouldn’t survive.