One of the largest NRS reserves, the Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center encompasses a major drainage system descending from the high peaks of the Santa Rosa Mountains down to the Colorado Desert. Deep Canyon’s tributaries begin in montane forests, flow across a rolling plateau covered with piñon-juniper woodland and chaparral, join at the head of a precipitous gorge, and plunge 1,180 feet into the canyon. From there, the mouth of the canyon opens out into a broad alluvial fan with sandy washes on the southern edge of the Coachella Valley. Except for a few permanent pools, the streambed in Deep Canyon’s lower reaches is dry. However, winter and monsoon storms can trigger dramatic flooding.
The vertebrate fauna is exceptionally rich, with 46 reptile species, 228 birds, and 47 mammals. The reserve is part of the United Nations Mojave and Colorado Desert Biosphere Reserve and it is surrounded by the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument. Desert research is also possible at other NRS sites, including the Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve, Jack and Marilyn Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center, and Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center.