Spring season desert wildflower blooms are always a pleasant sight to see, but the window of opportunity to view the bright colors can vary from year to year. There are several factors that contribute to the volume and duration of the desert wildflower bloom season and the chief element is the amount of rainfall logged during the winter season. In years of drought, the desert wildflower blooms can be brief and sparse, while a wet winter will guarantee an extensive flowering season.
There are other factors to consider when estimating when it would be a good time to search for flowers out in the desert. Temperature is a factor, because it takes warmth for the plants to gain the energy to bloom, so a late winter can delay the action. The elevation also must be considered, because the low elevation flowers appear much sooner than those that grow high on a mountain. Likewise, the mountain shadows can cause blooming delays too.
Each plant species flowers at its own rate when the conditions are right. Because the Desert Southwest reaches triple digit temperatures long before summer begins, the delicate plants tend to have an early brief blooming period, while hearty plants like cactus will continue to bloom well into summer.
It takes rainfall during the winter to initiate the spring season flower blooms that paint the desert with bright colors. During years when a dry winter occurs, the place to look for mass desert wildflower blooms is in canyons, dry washes or higher elevations in the mountains where water seepage occurs. Box canyons that were farmed by natives in ancient times and water seepage areas near sandstone canyon walls are good places to find desert wildflowers during a dry year.
After a wet winter, the springtime desert wildflower season will go full swing quickly and it will last till the soil dries out or when the temperatures go through the roof. The desert plants simply use the opportunity to bloom as much as possible and as early as possible, while going for longevity as well. In such a scenario it is possible to see rare desert wildflower blooms that stretch out as far as the eyes can see, which is a very rare sight to behold.
Mesquite, Nevada is known for being a 4×4 off-road adventure basecamp. The Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area is easy to get to from Mesquite and a visitor will actually drive through three states to get to this destination, which is only about 2o minutes away. When heading north on Interstate Highway 15 from Mesquite, take the Littlefield Exit Ramp to old U.S. Highway 91, which runs a few miles north to the conservation area. The Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area access roads can be found just across the Utah border after passing through a small section of the Arizona Strip.
After entering the Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area in Highway 91, there are two dirt roads that head east uphill into the mountains. The first dirt road is the famous Mojave Desert Joshua Tree National Back Country Byway, which is also a good choice for seeing spring wildflower blooms. It is the second dirt road that is featured in today’s article, so continue north on Highway 91 just past Castle Cliff, where the roadside caves are located. Shortly after passing the caves, look for a well maintained white limestone dirt road that runs east. This dirt road is unmarked, but a map will show that this road runs along the northern border of the Beaver Dam Wash Conservation Area. This is both a ranch road and an access road for the conservation area, so if any cattle gates are closed along the way, just be sure to close them behind you as you pass through. If the gates are open, just leave them open.
When touring the dirt road along the north border of the conservation area it is likely that there will be plenty of cattle around, so it is best to proceed with caution. Not all western cattle are docile, like “Elsie The Cow” is at a cute little dairy farm back east. Free range cattle can be feisty and mean, especially during the spring season. It pays to be aware of the cattle when stepping out of the vehicle, because the bulls have been known to charge at humans.
The photos for this article were taken in May of 2018 after a very dry winter. I was not expecting much, but to my surprise I saw a small patch of bright pink color poking out of the sage brush on the side of a hill and I immediately knew what the plant was. Beaver Tail Cactus are renowned for their hot pink flowers and these cactus were everywhere along the dirt road. From then on, the dirt road sightseeing tour turned into a pink cactus flower hunting excursion!
As mentioned earlier, the window of opportunity for viewing the spring season desert wildflower blooms can vary from year to year. There are websites that are devoted to this subject and they feature bloom locations are confirmed to be currently occurring. One thing that is for sure is those who hesitate will be lost, because the desert flower blooms usually do not last too long. For this reason, when the word gets out, be ready to move on the opportunity and be sure to bring a good camera along for the ride!
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