Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Photo Time: Anza Borrego State Park

We are getting close to spring break and a trip to the desert, for the first time in 4 years, so I thought I'd haul out and share some photos from Anza Borrego Desert State Park, east of San Diego, CA. We won't be going there this year--we need to go higher to find the flowers in this warm, dry spring, but it's a cool place. Well, "cool" in a warm, desertish way. These photos are from our most recent visit, in March of 2011, a decent wildflower year (the last one we've had, due to the on-going California drought).

First, just to get you oriented, here's Southern California. The park doesn't get a specific outline here, but it positions it (for those of you who wondered last week, look up north of I 40 near Needles and you'll see the general location of the Mojave National Preserve). Anza-Borrego is California's largest state park, at over 600,000 acres.

Now, I know that many of you think of desert, and this is what you think of: bare, hot, dry, and nothing grows there.
Font's Point at sunset.
But the desert is nothing if not surprising, and every canyon in Anza Borrego holds delights. One key to enjoying them is to start off early.

Starting off early up Borrego Palm Canyon, among the brittlebush.
Early morning is also about the only time you'll see wildlife (well, and sometimes at dusk). If you are very, very luck and keen-eyed, and up a canyon early enough, you may see Desert Bighorn sheep (the borregos of the name).
Hare in the early morning, near the Borrego Springs campground.

One of the delightful surprises is water in the desert. There is a year-round creek in Borrego Palm Canyon (I hope it still is. Three years of severe drought could have changed that).
Water lets all sorts of plants and animals thrive.

The signature feature of the area is, in my mind, the California Fan Palm oases. Left to themselves, the palms will grow their "skirts" of dead fronds all the way to the ground. Some idiots think it's cool to set them on fire, and sadly very few groves have escaped this vandalism. Some of have destroyed. I can only wish infestations of ticks, chiggers, and tse-tse flies on the idiots who did it.

A small grove well up the canyon. Some of the trees look burned; others were denuded and uprooted in a flash flood that came down the canyon in, I think, 2009.
Animals of all sorts like the creek environments. These are an invasive species that must be watched very closely!
Showering in a waterfall up Hellhole Canyon.
The desert--flat and rugged, dry and in bloom!

Ocatillo at the mouth of Hellhole Canyon. The trees and green mark the town of Borrego Springs.

Gratuitous flower photos:


Prickly pear in bloom. Note the pollinator.

Cholla blossom.

Ocatillo blossom. Ocatillo only grow leaves (and bloom) when they have enough water. The rest of the time, they look like sticks.

Have to look this one up.
Oases come in all shapes. After a long morning hiking up a canyon, in the hot afternoon, a town with laundry, a bit of grass and shade, and a laundromat are a pretty good bargain!
Christmas Tree Circle in Borrego Springs.
Not Death by Ice Cream, but more like "ice cream is my life!"

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015


  1. I always enjoy your photos, Rebecca. Thank you for sharing :)

    1. Thanks! I hope to have some new photos in a few weeks, but I do have fun going through the old ones. Need to start scanning slides, then I could really go back!

  2. I would love to go there. Bit hot, though, I suspect!

    1. Come on over! Most years, early March is probably best down there, but it's usually good through at least the middle of the month. Flowers, and not too hot. Midday isn't so nice, but that's when we go to the Visitor's Center or out for laundry and ice cream.

  3. These photos are stunning. Thank you for bringing this desert to us and showing us how amazing and different it can look. I have been to CA, but never been to Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Now I know I have to visit it the next time I go! :)

    1. Hi Jess, thanks for coming by! Yes, the park is worth a visit, though I recommend coming in spring. Definitely not in summer! There are a bunch of parks in the region, from Death Valley to A-B, and they are all fascinating.


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