Spring Rains Bring Continuing Bloom
Last updated 4/28/2023 at 10:17am
The calls come in daily. Is it a Superbloom in Borrego?
You could debate for hours over the meaning of super, spectacular or outstanding, but it might be more fun to just enjoy the wildflowers.
And, who cares when you are surrounded by a field of purple sand verbena dotted with dune primrose and yellow desert sunflowers dancing in a spring breeze?
Earlier in the season, experts at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park predicted there would not be a wildflower Superbloom.
Technically, they may be right. We have yet to see the ubiquitous carpet of color throughout the desert.
But rains have continued, including nearly one inch in some areas of the park last week, and blankets of wildflowers continue to expand.
“Historic snow pack and rainfall is great news for the State, but not enough to declare an end to Californias’ water challenges. Capturing water when its available, in both surface and groundwater facilities for future use, is the focus of planners throughout the State. Because capturing runoff has not been improved yet, I would not be surprised if large areas of the state is back in Drought status in a few short years,” Borrego Water District General Manager Geoff Poole said, in regards to the recent storms hitting the state, and what it could mean for the Drought issues.
Poole added, “Locally, the Borrego Springs Basin obviously benefits from rainfall in our watershed. The exact impact of the rainfall on groundwater elevations may be known as early as the next round of Watermaster monitoring in early April in some areas. However, after decades of critical overdraft in our Basin, groundwater elevations are so low in many areas we may not see any appreciable change from the rainfall. These wet years are part of the inflow calculations used to determine the sustainable yield in our Basin of an estimated 5,700 acre feet per year and will also be needed in the future to maintain it.”
If you measure Superbloom against the banner year of 2017, you must admit that this year is not as good.
When asked, “Have the rains changed the possibility of a superbloom?” Park Information Officer Jorge Moreno responded, “Yes and no. The amount of rainfall in California could potentially change the outlook of a “super bloom” happening in the desert this year. The amount of rainfall during the winter and spring months is one of the key factors. The heavy rainfall in California this year could greatly increase the chances of a significant bloom happening in the desert, especially in areas like Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.”
Adding, “However, it’s important to note that desert plants are adapted to survive in an environment where water is scarce, and many have developed specialized characteristics to help them conserve water. Some desert plants have extensive root systems that help them access water deep within the soil, while others have thick, waxy leaves that reduce water loss through transpiration. Even with the additional water from a wet winter, desert plants may still need to rely on these adaptations to survive during the summer months.”
But if you love the spring glory of desert flowers, it’s hard not to be impressed by the quantity and variety of blossoms carpeting some areas, and as our unusual amounts of rainfall continue to appear, so do the flowers.
Former Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Superintendent Mark Jorgensen has lived in Borrego for more than a half century. He’s seen it all, from parched years with no flowers, to the traffic jam blooms that brought hundreds of thousands of visitors here.
“I wouldn’t call this year a Superbloom, but in some areas it is super,” Jorgensen said.
He listed lower Coyote Canyon as spectacular but cautioned that Coyote Creek is flowing across the dirt road about three quarters of a mile beyond the end of the pavement.
“It’s passable but caution is advised,” he said.
There, visitors will find beautiful fields of sand verbena, delicate white dune primrose, sunflowers and desert dandelions.
“The old farm fields around town are excellent, especially at the intersection of Henderson and DiGiorgio roads. Henderson east of Borrego Valley Road is excellent for verbena, sunflowers, dune primrose, popcorn flower, and Old Springs Road near the landfill is superb,” Jorgensen said.
He suggested visitors park on Old Springs Road at the boundary of the County Park Preserve and spend time hiking through the rippled sand dunes.
If you are exploring, continue east on S-22 about 16 miles and you will discover clusters of blooming Arizona lupines east of Arroyo Salado Campground.
Cacti are late bloomers and with all the rain that has fallen in the desert, visitors can expect a beautiful show.
“Still to come and it should be super will be the beaver tail which are all budded up and ready to explode,” Jorgensen said. With their iridescent pink to magenta flowers, they are one of the more colorful cactus flowers in Anza-Borrego.
Roads coming into Borrego Springs have been nicely landscaped by Mother Nature, with the happy yellow flowers of brittlebush starting to dot the roadsides along Montezuma Grade and Yaqui Pass.
Jorgensen said rock daisies have exploded on the lower portions of Montezuma Grade and in the rocky areas of Coyote Canyon. And of course, if you are driving down the grade, take advantage of the pull outs to stop for a few minutes and carefully scan the hillsides for bighorn sheep. The south end of the park along Highway S-2 has also been blessed with lots of rain this winter.
Some of the high points in that area for wildflowers include June Wash, Indian Gorge, Mountain Palm Springs, and Bow Willow.
It’s a good idea to stop at the State Park Store in the Mall before you begin to explore and pick up several items, including a wildflower guide, map to the best bloom areas and most of all a copy of “Anza-Borrego Desert Region,” an invaluable guidebook to all the roads, trails and features of California’s largest state park.
If you have the guidebook, check out these other locations where wildflower displays will be found.
Redrock Canyon at the northwest edge of Clark Dry Lake has a spectacular desert lily bloom, along with scattered desert five spots, desert stars and lupine.
Hellhole and Little Surprise Canyons are great hikes to enjoy a variety of geological features as well as wildflowers.
Vallecito Creek Road and the many canyons that fork into it can provide a full day’s adventure of off-road exploration. Be prepared with food and water.
And don’t forget the state park visitor center at the west end of Palm Canyon Drive. The area around the center is filled with many of the native plants in full bloom for visitors to enjoy.
Borrego Springs is expecting a huge surge in visitors as the wildflower bloom evolves. Come early, and be patient, because local restaurants and services will be busy.
Hikers should carry plenty of water, trail food, sunscreen and wear sturdy boots and a sun hat.
Don’t pick the flowers and be mindful of where you walk so you don’t trample the delicate blooms.
Don’t worry if it’s a Superbloom or just a good wildflower year. It’s breathtaking when you discover the right area.