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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where to see desert Spring wildflowers

In last week's post we looked at desert wildflowers, how Mother Nature's complex set of conditions come together to produce the spectacular annual display of color the Mojave and Sonora Deserts are famous for.

The best locations are on public land where it is illegal to pick or disturb wildflowers and their terrain, along roadsides where rain runoff provides abundant moisture, canyons,  hillsides and other difficult terrains not accessible to ATV's and where the land is not grazed by cattle. Here are some specific locations that you may want to add to your travel plans.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park - Located in California's Mojave Desert in eastern San Diego County, the Park includes washes, palm groves, cacti, and sweeping vistas. It is 25 by 50 miles in size, over 600,000 acres (the state's largest state park), and ringed by mountains. It's also a World Biosphere Reserve.

Anza Borrego
The variation in elevations and desert features make it the perfect place for wildflower viewing as there will be flowers starting to bloom in the lowest, hottest locations first (end of January) and as the season progresses the wildflowers will creep up the hills and into the highest and coolest elevations. Therefore, you can count on seeing wildflowers from the earliest blooms of Spring through summer blooming cacti. Best times are between mid-February and the end of March. Here are some specific locations to look as you drive the park:
  • County Road S-22 (Ranchita to Salton City): Little Surprise Canyon, Borrego Palm Canyon, Borrego Springs, Desert Gardens
  • County Road S-3 (Borrego Springs to Highway 78): Glorietta Canyon
  • Highway 78 (Banner to Trifolium): Plum Canyon, Mine Wash, Hawk Canyon, Elephant Trees Area
  • County Road S-2 (San Felipe to Ocotillo): Rainbow Canyon, Fossil Canyon
A stop at the visitor center is a must to pick up a full color wildflower brochure and for the current information on what is blooming and where. You can also get current information on their wildflower hotline at 760-767-4684. Developed campgrounds with hookups as well as primitive and dispersed camping (boondocking) is available in the park and services and supplies are available in the town of Borrego Springs a couple miles from the visitor center.

Organ Pipe Cactus Nat. Mon. 
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument - Located on SR85 in the Sonoran Desert between the town of Why and the Mexico border in Arizona, the park is the only American location for the namesake Organ Pipe cacti. This is one of the first locations in the country where Spring wildflowers bloom because of its low altitude and southern Arizona location.

The Sonoran is the lushest of the North American deserts, rich in large cacti, trees, and wildlife. This is due to a very active summer thunderstorm season. The changing summer weather flow (known as the Monsoon) often brings downpours from the Gulfs of California and Mexico.You will see wildflowers blooming all along the highway leading to the park, so take it slow and pull over when you see some color. Wildflower hotline: (602) 481-8134.

There is a primitive campground in the park about 15 miles from the entrance but you have to get there early to secure a campsite--and they don't take reservations. But there is also a BLM dispersed camping area on the west side of the highway south of Why just over the green bridge where you can leave your rig and drive your tow or toad into the park. For more information and for photos of the park's wildflowers visit the park's website.

Additional wildflower information and locations include:
Joshua Tree National Park, East of Palm Springs in California
Death Valley National Park, North of Baker in California
For additional information on desert wildflowers visit DesertUSA.
Desert Botanical Garden wildflower hotline (602) 481-8134.
California deserts: Living Desert wildflower hotline (619) 340-0435.

Check out Bob Difley's Boondocking, Snowbird Guide, and saving money on the road eBooks at

1 comment:

  1. The "DesertUSA" link given at the end of the article does not lead to the DesertUSA website; try this one: