Winter showers bring spring superbloom to southern California desert

All photos by Cheryl Landes

Winter’s record rainfall brought one of the largest desert superblooms in recent memory to southern California. Thousands of flowers started appearing in March at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California’s largest state park covering 640,000 acres northeast of San Diego. Although most of the flowers are tiny, together they transform a typical tan, gray landscape into a sea of color.

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The pictures in this post are from my visit on March 17-18. Park officials expect the show to continue through May, but the types of flowers in bloom will change. Check for updates here.

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My route to the park from the San Diego International Airport followed California Route 78 East to Santa Ysabel, where I turned north on California Route 79. In 11 miles, I turned right on San Felipe Road (S2) and drove five miles to Montezuma Valley Road (S22) and turned left. S22 is a steep, windy road that descends onto the desert floor 17 miles later. From airport to desert, it’s a two-hour drive without stops.

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If you go, carry extra water. Also wear sunscreen and a hat. When I was there, the high temperature was in the mid-90s. It’s easy to become dehydrated within minutes in the dry, hot desert heat. The town of Borrego Springs at the edge of the park has a shopping mall and grocery store where you can stock up, if needed.

Weekdays are the least crowded. If you come on weekends, expect traffic jams through Borrego Springs and limited parking. During my trip, the park’s visitor center was closed, but a flower information booth was open in a trailer at the mall’s parking lot. Visitor center hours are typically 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, and parking costs $5 per day. Day-use parking in campground areas is $10.

For more information, visit the Anza-Borrego State Park website or call the visitor center at (760) 767-4205.

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