Thursday, December 29, 2011

ANZA BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK (E. San Diego, Imperial & Riverside Counties, CA)

Established in 1933 as California's first desert state park, Anza Borrego encompasses over 600,000 acres, with 500 miles of dirt roads and 110 miles of hiking trails in the Colorado desert.  It is the largest state park in California and the largest desert state park in the U.S. The 'Anza' comes from Juan Bautista de Anza (the first 18th century Spanish explorer to forge an overland route from Mexico to Alta California), and 'Borrego' means bighorn sheep in Spanish.

Despite a meager average annual rainfall of only 6 inches, a number of verdant canyons and oases exist throughout the park. In wet years, vast areas of the Anza Borrego can be carpeted with spectacular wildflower blooms in the late winter- early spring, followed by cactus blooms in April-May. 

We've visited Anza Borrego 4 times before in search of wildflowers: first time in April 1995 (visitor center), second time in March of 1998 (Yaqui Well Nature Trail), a third  time in March of 2004 (Coyote Canyon & DiGiorgio Rd.), and the last time in February of 2005 (San Felipe Wash, Henderson Canyon Rd., and Nude Wash with a group from the Riverside-San Bernardino Chapter of the California Native Plant Society). The 7,000 square foot visitor center on Palm Canyon Drive is also a must-see: it's a unique structure that was literally built into a hillside to keep the building cool. There's a paved walkway outside, interpretive displays, and a Desert Garden with a small pond containing endangered pupfish. 

4/9/95 Dead Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), Desert Garden, Visitor Center.

4/9/95 Palo Verde (Cercidium floridum). Visitor Center.

4/9/95 Gil, in front of some blooming Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa). Visitor Center.

4/9/95 Visitor Center.

4/9/95 Desert Garden at the Visitor Center.

4/9/95 Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) in full bloom at the Visitor Center.

4/9/95 Visitor Center.

4/9/95 Teddy Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii). Cactus Loop Trail across from Tamarisk Grove Campground.

4/9/95 Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris). Cactus Loop Trail across from Tamarisk Grove Campground.

4/9/95 Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). Cactus Loop Trail across from Tamarisk Grove Campground.

4/9/95 Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). Cactus Loop Trail across from Tamarisk Grove Campground.

3/21/98 Yaqui Well Nature Trail. Lots of Ocotillo, Brittlebush and Chuparosa in bloom.

3/21/98 Yaqui Well Nature Trail.
Desert Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa), roadside off S-22 (to Salton City).

3/21/98 Brown-eyed Evening Primroses (Camissonia claviformis) and Desert Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa). Roadside, off S-22 (to Salton City), on our way back to La Puente.  
3/21/98 S-22 (to Salton City).

3/21/98 Sunset off S-22 (to Salton City).

3/7/04 Visitor Center.

3/7/04 Desert Garden at the Visitor Center.

3/7/04 Endangered Desert Pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) in the pupfish pond at Visitor Center. According to the CA State Parks website, these guys are called Salton Sea Pupfish, although none remain in the Salton Sea today.

3/7/04 Desert Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa) at Coyote Canyon, against the backdrop of the Santa Rosa Mountains. 

2/27/05 Borrego Milkvetch (Astragalus lintiginosus var. borreganus). Henderson Canyon Rd.

2/27/05 Brown-Eyed Evening Primrose (Camissonia claviformis). San Felipe Wash.

3/7/04 Dune Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides). Coyote Canyon.

2/27/05 Parish's Poppies (Eschscholzia parishii). Nude Wash off Hwy. 78. So why is this place called Nude Wash? I thought it was a joke, but one of the CNPS members on our hiking group said it was named by a ranger who saw some dude sunbathing in the nude out there.

3/7/04 Bajada Lupine (Lupinus concinnus). DiGiorgio Rd.

3/7/04 Desert Lily (Hesperocallis undulata). Coyote Canyon.

4/9/95 Englemann Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus englemanii). Desert Garden at visitor center.

2/27/05 Dune Sunflower (Helianthus niveus ssp. canescens). Henderson Canyon Rd.

3/7/04 Palmer's Coldenia or Palmer's Crinklemat (Tiquilia palmeri). Coyote Canyon.

2/27/05 Desert Indianwheat (Plantago ovata). Henderson Canyon Rd.

2/27/05 Desert Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa). Henderson Canyon Rd.

3/7/04 Spectacle Pod (Dithyrea californica). Coyote Canyon.

2/27/05 Parry's Cloak Fern (Cheilanthes parryi). Nude Wash off of Hwy. 78. A fern in the desert - how cool is that? 

2/27/05 Notch-leaf Phacelia (Phacelia crenulata). San Felipe Wash.

2/27/05 Dye Bush or Emory Dalea (Psorothamnus emoryi). San Felipe Wash.

3/7/04 Lax Flower (Baileya pauciradiata). DiGiorgio Rd.

3/21/98 Narrow-leaved Cryptantha (Cryptantha angustifolia). Yaqui Well Nature Trail.

2/27/05 Whispering Bells (Emmenanthe penduliflora). Nude Wash off Hwy. 78.


Location: Colorado Desert, SE California.

County: Eastern San Diego County, with portions extending north into Riverside County and east into Imperial County.

Management: CA Dept. of Parks & Recreation.

Size: 600,000 + acres.

Closest Town/City: Borrego Springs, Salton City.

Directions: From the Temecula area, take I-15S to SR 79S (to Indio), which is just a few miles south of the Winchester Rd. exit. From the I-15 & SR79 junction, it's about 38 miles to Warner Springs. Just south of Warner Springs Ranch, turn left at SR2 (San Felipe Rd.). Continue another 5 miles and turn left on SR22 (Montezuma Way). Continue approximately 15 miles to Borrego Springs, turn left on Palm Canyon Rd. to park headquarters (visitor center).  

And for the insatiably curious, Nude Wash is on the south side of Hwy. 78 between Borrego Valley Rd. and Yaqui Pass Rd.: 

Maps: (CA Dept. of Parks & Recreation). (Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association). (Borrego Springs Chamber & Visitors Bureau).

Road Conditions: Upon exiting SR 79S in Temecula, the road is wide, paved with multiple lanes going through town for about a mile (with stoplights). Outside of town, road narrows to one lane each way, winding through rolling hills, oak woodland, ranchland. Montezuma Way (SR22) is a very slow, winding descent, about 2,000 ft., down into the valley, with some hairpin curves.

For roadside wildflower viewing, Borrego Springs Rd., DiGiorgio Rd., Henderson Canyon Rd. are all straight, paved 2-lane. DiGiorgio Road's paved portion ends just a few miles short going north, at entrance to Coyote Canyon. Dirt road beyond usually passable to 2WD passenger cars, but best with 4WD high clearance vehicles. 

Trails: There are 110 miles of hiking trails in the park. Yaqui Well & Cactus Loop trails near Tamarisk Grove Campground offer relatively easy hiking, with many wildflowers after abundant rainfall. 

Amenities: Borrego Palm Canyon, Vernon Whitaker Horse Camp and Tamarisk Grove have water, flush toilets and showers. Visitor Center has restrooms, bookstore & gift shop, interpretive displays. AT&T Wi-Fi service available if you're within 150 foot range base of the ranger's office. 

Contact Info: Visitor Center at 200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA 92004, Tel (760)767-4205.  Park headquarters (760)767-5311.

Hours: Visitor center open 7 days a week 9am - 5pm November to April. From May to October, weekends only.

Pets: Being a State park, Anza Borrego is not exactly pooch friendly. Dogs are not allowed on any of the trails, but they are allowed on the dirt roads and in day use areas, as long as they are leashed. 

Flora & Fauna: Bighorn sheep, mule deer, roadrunners, golden eagles, kit foxes, four species of rattlesnake, desert iguana, black-tailed jackrabbits and chuckwalla can be found in the park. Creosote bush, palo verde, ocotillo and cacti, along with honey mesquite, smoke trees and catclaw acacias can be found growing in the washes and bajadas. The endangered California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera) can be found in areas where natural springs and oases occur. 

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