Three hours south of Los Angeles, nestled inside 600,000 acres of protected land, sits the tiny community of Borrego Springs.
With a population of just over 3,000 people, the town has no need for stoplights. Its downtown consists of just a few shops, one pizza parlor, a Mexican restaurant, and a small convenience store. The community prides itself on its protection of the surrounding natural environment, which includes Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the second-largest contiguous state park in the United States.
In fact, the people of Borrego Springs hold the environment in such high regard that the use of lights after dark is restricted, including a rule stating no outdoor light can point upward, to keep the dazzling view of the night sky intact. This rule helped the town become only the second community in the world to be awarded the prestigious Dark Sky Community designation by the International Dark Sky Association.
While the community may be a small, dusty desert blip on the map, travelers from all over are making the journey to visit for one spectacular and wildly rare show put on by Mother Nature.
“They are blooming everywhere right now. There are some great displays already,” Kathy Dice, Superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park said of the once-in-a-decade Borrego Springs desert flower super bloom. “Anybody who parks their cars and walks around is going to see all kinds of interesting flowers.”
Thanks to an unusually rainy year in California, the park and town is experiencing its first super bloom since 2008.
“I think the morning is prime time,” Dice, who has lived and worked in Borrego Springs for 30 years, advises visitors.
We arrived just as the sun was rising over the hills of the state park, and just as the flowers opened their petals to soak up the 90-degree sun. If you don’t see the flowers at first you’ll certainly be able to smell them out. By dawn the entire community is glazed over with the sweet scent of wildflowers.
Flower hunters should beware that the field outside the state park’s visitor center isn’t the only place where the magic happens. Get adventurous and drive a few miles away to Coyote Canyon and be rewarded with a less crowded space and more diverse blooms including Desert Lilies, Brown-Eyed Primrose, Little Gold Poppies, and fields packed with Desert Sunflowers.
“What we’re known for really, we have a large variety, 100 different types of flowers. It’s very colorful,” Dice said.
If you want to see the desert in full bloom you’d better act fast. “The length of bloom depends on weather, and of course the hungry caterpillars that are now hatching,” Dice explained, adding that these little creatures “can change a field in a day.”
But if you can’t make it for the bloom, which will likely only last another week or two, it’s still worth the drive as the next phase is the cacti bloom. Bright fuchsia-pink flowers are preparing to dot the tops of the Beavertail Cactus, while yellow and red flowers will soon sit like eggs in a nest atop the Barrel Cactus.
“The color continues, it just continues in different forms,” Dice said. “Every year, for me, it’s a discovery. This year, you’re going to trip over flowers.”