Desert State Park Prepares
Last updated 3/25/2019 at 1:22pm
It's no longer a matter of if, but rather when and for how long wildflowers will grace the Borrego Valley and surrounding areas within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (ABDSP, aka the Park). Mother Nature could, however, always toss in a late-minute weather surprise, but State Parks & Recreation officials and staff, local ABDSP staff, the Anza-Borrego Foundation staff (serving Borrego since 1967), and the Sheriff's department staff all have planned months in advance for a Super Bloom.
They strive to make it a safe and enjoyable experience for however many tens of thousands of visitors arrive. While we've been experiencing colder than normal temperatures than prior to the 2017 Super Bloom, now with light and infrequent rains plus snow on the surrounding mountain peaks, this condition could actually slow down flower metabolism and prolong the bloom, according to botanist Larry Hendrikson.
On Feb. 22, it was media awareness day in Borrego. Colorado Desert District Superintendent Gina Moran, Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area (SVRA) Superintendent Steve Quintieri, and Anza-Borrego Foundation Interim Executive Director Bri Fordem each provided a brief overview of wildflower planning. Word needs to get out through local, regional, and even national/international media what visitors need to plan for, what supplies to bring, services available in town, what and what not to wear, and how best to enjoy both the wildflower experience and other natural features in our desert environs.
Important on the list for critical visitor information, notes Quintieri, is that wildflowers are not limited to the confines of Borrego Springs, such as those along DiGiorgio and Henderson Canyon Roads, for example. They are much more spread out, reaching from the bases of local canyons to the north, west, and south (San Felipe Creek) to the Badlands and Ocotillo Wells to the east. Thanks to rain in October, says Quintieri, Ocotillo Wells and the Badlands are already experiencing significant blooms.
But wildflowers are not the only things to admire. Locally we have our Natural History Museum, ABF store, and Visitor's center display's. To the east in the vicinity of Ocotillo Wells are historical, cultural, and archeological sites, and the breathtaking canyon scenery up Split Creek; an e-Bike ride on fat tires via Park concessionaire Bike Borrego is the way to go 15 – 30 miles over rough/sandy terrain without breaking a sweat.
Traffic maps, wildflower location maps and brochures, and even the location of portable toilets and emergency services are all part of local planning efforts for the expected throngs of visitors.
Need to ID a particular flower? The Park has provided detailed color brochures for the curious. And with the blooms come the Painted Lady butterflies and Sphynx moths, abundant in the meadows beyond the north end of DiGiorgio Road where the media event was located. Unsure if it's a butterfly or moth? In most cases, says SVRA Interpretive Specialist-3 Jeff Price from Ocotillo Wells, "Butterflies go to flowers in the daytime, while moths go to the lamps at night, but can be also be seen in the early-evening and early-morning hours." Schedule your search accordingly.
Sahara Mustard plants, an invasive species, are currently thriving amidst the native wildflowers, says both Hendrickson and Danny McCamish, Senior Environmental Scientist with Parks and Rec, and much work still needs to be done to eliminate them.
According to Sicco Rood, Staff Research Associate for the UCI Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center, half of a small but lovely section of luping near the Badlands was already swamped with Sahara Mustard as of mid-February. For other small and isolated areas, the significant visual impact of Sahara Mustard infestation should be visible during the coming bloom.
So the watchword by the experts for bloom visitors is "Prepare." Folks should hopefully have a wonderful experience here, but this is the desert, not a barefoot stroll on the grass in one's local park.