Carrizo Plain Superbloom

So you want to go to the superbloom? You've heard about it in the media and you've seen picture floating around, but is it really that good? Is it worth your time? Up until this weekend I kind of felt that the superbloom at various locations in California was mainly a bunch of media hype fluffing up what is probably the best spring we've had in five or so yearsdue to the amount of precipitation we received this winter and continue to get into the spring months, but nothing truly out of the ordinary. My recent visit to Carrizo Plain National Monument is making me re-adjust that statement. I've been down to the Carrizo Plain in years before the drought and was always impressed by the fields of flowers, but this year is like nothing I've seen in diversity and shear number of flowering plants.

The Carrizo Plain located between Taft and Santa Maria is the largest remaining alkali wetland in California and sits nestled in a basin formed by the San Andreas fault with the Temblor Range to the east and the Caliente Range to the west. Water entering the plain has no where to escape, so collects in Soda Lake and evaporates off leaving the baking soda like deposits that give the lake its name.

Bureau of Land Management map of Carrizo Plain with 4 areas of interest for wildflower viewing highlighted. Zone 1 is the Temblor Range, Zone 2 is Soda Lake Area, Zone 3 is the roadside near Selby Campground and Zone 4 is the southern extent of the Caliente Range.

Bureau of Land Management map of Carrizo Plain with 4 areas of interest for wildflower viewing highlighted. Zone 1 is the Temblor Range, Zone 2 is Soda Lake Area, Zone 3 is the roadside near Selby Campground and Zone 4 is the southern extent of the Caliente Range.

 

I flew over the Carrizo Plain on March 30th on my way to Los Angeles for the National Science Teacher Association meeting and could see the flowers from 30, 000 feet, which did nothing but inspire me to find the first day that I wasn't working to make it there.

March 30th view of the Carrizo Plain with Soda Lake center. The Temblor Range and Soda Lake were just starting to get color, while the area near Selby Campground was nearing peak display. Take note that the Temblor Range has its southern slopes blooming at this time.

March 30th view of the Carrizo Plain with Soda Lake center. The Temblor Range and Soda Lake were just starting to get color, while the area near Selby Campground was nearing peak display. Take note that the Temblor Range has its southern slopes blooming at this time.

March 30th view of the Carrizo Plain's Caliente Range with Soda Lake Road running the top half of the picture. Its interesting to note that most of the Caliente Range slopes that are in full color are south facing.

March 30th view of the Carrizo Plain's Caliente Range with Soda Lake Road running the top half of the picture. Its interesting to note that most of the Caliente Range slopes that are in full color are south facing.

On April 10th I finally got to the Carrizo Plain and wow, what a treat. The flower display had already changed a bit from what I had seen in the air, but it was still blooming bigger then anything I'd I've seen there. The Temblor Range south of Wallace Creek was by far my favorite. A good portion of the northern facing slopes were blooming and some of the more lush southern facing slopes were still going, but it was easy to see southern facing slopes that had already burned out.

As one would expect there are people everywhere and there are some very serious things to consider if you are planning your trip.

1) There are little to no services in the Carrizo Plain including spotty cell phone reception, so bring all the things you'll need for your trip (water, food, etc) and gas up in one of the major towns before entering the plain. Camping is BLM style which means little services besides restrooms at the designated camp grounds in the monument.

2) The road are in rough shape and good number of the ones you'll want to be on to see flower displays are dirt. The dirt roads are graded well, but depending on where you go the quality of the graded dirt road can fall off quickly.

3) Plants in the Carrizo Plain, especially lots of the flowering species do not bounce back well from being stepped on or even brushed aside, so stick to already defined trails or walk ways through the plants. Another great reason to stick to the trails is that a lot of snakes are up and they love to hide in the thick bed of plants.

4) People are going to be hard to avoid, so if you are looking for solace, this might not be the place or go to the far southern part of the plain and take a long trail into the Caliente Range. 

5) Time is not on your side. From seeing how the blooms shifted from predominantly south facing to north facing slopes in just over a week and a half, I would estimate that at best there is another week and a half left of peak feeling blooms on the Temblors and around Soda Lake.

Just south of the Wallace Creek trail another road leads up to a series of small trails that get you back into the Temblor Range for grand displays at your feet and in the distance.

Just south of the Wallace Creek trail another road leads up to a series of small trails that get you back into the Temblor Range for grand displays at your feet and in the distance.

Further south along Elkhorn Road from Wallace Creek you'll find a large gate, an old dilapidated water tank, and a ton of cars that are all parked so they can walk up into this canyon. The trail if you care to take it to its terminus will place you all the way on top of this purple and gold dappled mountain.

Further south along Elkhorn Road from Wallace Creek you'll find a large gate, an old dilapidated water tank, and a ton of cars that are all parked so they can walk up into this canyon. The trail if you care to take it to its terminus will place you all the way on top of this purple and gold dappled mountain.

North facing slopes of the Temblor still showing strong colors.

North facing slopes of the Temblor still showing strong colors.

Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa) from Soda Lake to what feels like the horizon.  Its an old photographer trick to squat down just at the right angle where a small patch of flower seems to go on infinitely, but honestly this is a huge patch and goes almost to the flower painted Temblor Range in the distance.

Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa) from Soda Lake to what feels like the horizon.  Its an old photographer trick to squat down just at the right angle where a small patch of flower seems to go on infinitely, but honestly this is a huge patch and goes almost to the flower painted Temblor Range in the distance.

Just east of Soda Lake Looking north. Fields upon fields of Goldfield flowers (Lasthenia sp.) and tall blue stalks of Delphinium.

Just east of Soda Lake Looking north. Fields upon fields of Goldfield flowers (Lasthenia sp.) and tall blue stalks of Delphinium.

If you are going to take such a photo, please use one of the already designated trails between plants, because...

If you are going to take such a photo, please use one of the already designated trails between plants, because...

a number of people all trying to get that head shot in the middle of new flower patches quickly takes a toll on all the flowers.

a number of people all trying to get that head shot in the middle of new flower patches quickly takes a toll on all the flowers.

If you are trying to get away from the crowds the southern part of the plain has blooms and solace.

If you are trying to get away from the crowds the southern part of the plain has blooms and solace.

If you are going, remember there is so much more to see then just fields of flowers!