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Will This Spring Be Colorful In Death Valley National Park?


Heavy rains in 2005 colored Jubilee Pass in Death Valley National Park yellow with wildflowers. NPS photo by Alan Van Valkenburg.

Will the coming months prove to be particularly colorful in Death Valley National Park? That's a good question, but past history of wildflower blooms in the park would seem to indicate that while there might be more flowers than usual, there won't be a spectacular bloom that sweeps the park.

According to park botanists, "the best time to see a spring floral display is in years when rainfall has been several times the Death Valley annual average of about 1.9 inches. In general, heavy rains in late October with no more rain through the winter months, will not bring out the flowers as well as rains that are evenly-spaced throughout the winter and into the spring."

So how much rain has fallen in the park since July 1? Well, the heavy rains just this month alone have dumped 2.86 inches of water at Scotty's Castle in the northern reaches of the park, according to the Park Service, but just 1.55 inches in the Furnace Creek Area. Unfortunately, there was no significant rain during the autumn months, which usually is critical for a colorful bloom February through April.

But Phil Dickinson, the long-time sales and marketing director at the Furnace Creek Resort, remains optimistic.

“Because of the rain last week, everyone who lives and works here in Death Valley is optimistic that we will at least have a better-than-average show this year,” said Mr. Dickinson. “It is always visually stunning to see our rugged desert covered in wildflowers in the spring. It is a season we always enjoy.”

The annual wildflower show typically begins in February at the lowest elevations of the park and usually continues through April, and in some higher elevations, as late as June. The most spectacular wildflower bloom in recent years was the spring of 2005 when the park had an unusual amount of rain.

According to park staff, here's a cheat-sheet on where to find wildflowers:

Mid-February to mid-April at lower elevations (valley floor and alluvial fans)

* Best Areas: Jubilee Pass, Highway 190 near the Furnace Creek Inn, base of Daylight Pass
* Dominant species: desert star, blazing star, desert gold, mimulus, encelia, poppies, verbena, evening primrose, phacelia, and various species of cacti (usually above the valley floor).

Early April to early May at 2,000 to 4,000 ft. elevations

* Best areas: Panamint Mountains
* Dominant species: paintbrush, Mojave desert rue, lupine, Joshua tree, bear poppy, cacti and Panamint daisies.

Late-April to early June above 4,000 ft. elevations

* Best areas: High Panamints
* Dominant species: Mojave wildrose, rabbitbrush, Panamint daisies, mariposa lilies and lupine.

Happy Hunting...

Please remember, you are in a National Park. Regulations prohibit picking of wildflowers so that they may be enjoyed by everyone.

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