Column: Don’t expect epic bloom this season, but visit to desert still in order


The sands of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park may look a little barren right now, but recent rainfall has given hope that spring will again bring blooming wildflowers.

Fall thunderstorms brought some rain, and there were a few drops in December, but the first big rain to wet the desert didn’t arrive until earlier this month, when nearly an inch was recorded in some areas around Borrego Springs.

It’s a good start, but without some significant rainfall in the next month, it’s unlikely that the wildflower bloom this year will come close to last year’s Super Bloom.

That might not be a bad thing.

The 2017 spring wildflower display was epic by any standard, and it was also the first “social media” bloom in the 650,000-acre state park.

It had been several years since decent rainfall has brought wildflower color to the desert, and soon the word spread through social media, resulting in as many as 300,000 people descending on the small desert community of about 3,000 residents.

Restaurants, restrooms, parking and roads were overwhelmed by the crowds, but the incredible beauty of the spring bloom did not disappoint. Social media was filled with images of the vast fields of desert sunflowers, purple verbena, or fiery red ocotillo flowers.

This year’s bloom is shaping up to be a bit less spectacular, but still worthy of a beautiful spring visit to California’s largest state park.

According to the online Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflower Guide,, plants that produce wildflowers are already germinating, and at a rate slightly better than last year.

Most of the rain that has fallen so far has been closer to the mountains on the west side of the desert and at higher elevations. Germination rates are also higher in those locations.

“It’s still too early to tell if this will produce an average, good or very good bloom,” according to the guide.

At any rate, peak bloom, however lush it will be, occurs between the middle of March and mid-April. By the middle of February, flowers should be showing, but just how many is the big question.

Visitors to Anza-Borrego should be able to hike to their favorite places and enjoy isolated pockets of flowers where rainfall was a bit more plentiful, and there may be areas where the sand is carpeted with dune primrose or desert lilies.

Spring in the desert is always rewarding, with gentle temperatures and the subtle beauty of the new season.

To keep track of the wildflower bloom, visit and click on the “Explore Anza-Borrego” tab and then “Wildflowers,” or call the state park Wildflower Hotline at (760) 767-4684.

Dark sky

If you prefer the beauty of a spectacular night sky to fields of wildflowers, Anza-Borrego should still be at the top of your list of places to visit.

The International Dark Sky Association has just named the state park as an International Dark Sky Park.

Several years ago, the community of Borrego Springs was designated a dark sky community because of efforts to minimize light pollution, and now the surrounding park joins in this recognition.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park,” said IDA Executive Director J. Scott Feierabend. “It builds significantly on the previous designation of Borrego Springs as an International Dark Sky Community and strengthens dark-skies protections for both. As a result, many millions of people in Southern California continue to be able to access and enjoy a nearby, dark night sky.”

Local astronomy enthusiasts often flock to the park on dark sky weekends to photograph or simply enjoy the spectacular night sky or seasonal meteor showers.

Summer nights are often the best time because the more dense star clouds of the Milky Way are visible then in the night sky.

“This is exciting news for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to be recognized as a dark sky park,” said Acting District Superintendent Norb Ruhmke. “We made improvements to our light fixtures not only to better protect the wildlife but also for our visitors to enjoy the beauty the desert has to offer at night.”

For more information about dark sky locations, visit

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