While Death Valley always sees wildflower displays at this time of year, the park is currently in a flowering so colorful and lush that it’s been dubbed a “super bloom” (not an official term) that’s drawing record crowds. Officials say that a series of storms in October triggered an additional seeding of wildflowers, and now, matched with mild temperatures and wind speed, the flowering is the best the park has seen in a decade.
According to the National Park Service, which posts a weekly wildflower update online, it’s moving north and climbing in altitude—and quickly. While there are still great displays of Desert Gold and Sand Verbena, many are past their peak, though right now Highway 190 is awash in bright yellow, purple, and pink petals of different blooms.
The L.A. Times reported that the phenomenon is drawing such large crowds that nearby hotels already are booked through mid-April, with the first availability at properties some 100 miles away. The season lasts through mid-July, with the blooms climbing from the foothills to the higher valleys and upper dessert slopes, then ultimately to the mountains.
“I’m not really sure where the term ‘super bloom’ originated, but when I first came to work here in the early 1990s I kept hearing the old timers talk about super blooms as a near mythical thing—the ultimate possibility of a desert wildflower bloom could be,” said Park Ranger Alan Van Valkenburg.
“I saw several impressive displays of wildflowers over the years and always wondered how anything could beat them, until I saw my first super bloom in 1998. Then I understood. I never imagined that so much life could exist here in such staggering abundance and intense beauty,” he said.
If you can’t make it to Death Valley in the coming weeks (it’s about two hours from Las Vegas and four and a half hours from Los Angeles), then click through our selection of some of the best photographs taken of the bloom so far.