|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
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Myths and cactus in California: A life-filled land of sand and mountains.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 200 Palm Canyon Dr. Borrego Springs, CA 92004 (760) 767-5311 Visitor Center: (760) 767-4205 California Parks & Recreation Box 942896 Sacramento, CA 94296-0001 (916) 653-6995.
Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association 202 Palm Canyon Dr. Borrego Springs, CA 92004 (619) 767-3052 Fax: (619) 767-3099
Location: Anza-Borrego is located at the southern tip of California, 40 miles east of San Diego. The park loops around the town of Borrego Springs, which provides gas stations, restaurants, markets, motels, RV parks, a medical clinic, and a performing arts theater.
Getting There: Take I-8 east out of San Diego to CA 79 north. After about 15 miles at Julian, take CA 78 east, the Secondary State Highway 3 north to Borrego Springs and the park visitor center just west of town.
Seasonal Information While the rest of the nation is shivering in January, where better to spend a weekend than a place with an average winter high of 70 degrees F? Fall, spring, and winter (November through May) are the best times to visit Anza-Borrego. Backcountry travel is not especially recommended during the summer months (May through September), when temperatures regularly rise into the 100s.
Visitors should be aware that Coyote Canyon is closed June 16 through September 15 to allow bighorn sheep to use the water undisturbed.
Wildlife: This life-filled land of sand and mountains supports more than 200 species of birds, deer, foxes, raccoons, mountain lions, even wild horses, and more kinds of reptiles than most people want to know about. Borregos (desert bighorn sheep) are the biggest draw, although they tend to be rather shy. Wildlife managers from as far away as Rwanda and the Peoples' Republic of China have visited Anza-Borrego to learn how the park tracks, studies, and manages the bighorn sheep population.
Insects: You can hear the buzz of cicadas on a hot summer day.
Plant Life: Trails weave through agave, cholla, and tamarisk. Beautifully flowered barrel cacti rise on their accordian-like trunks above these, and tall, spidery armed ocotillos in shades of red and green dot the landscape. Cup-like blossoms vary in color from the yellow of barrel to the deep purple-red of hedgehog. Fishhook cactus, pencil cholla, desert willow, palo verde, desert lavender, bladderpod, and trixisapricot mallow are just a few of the wildflowers thriving in Anza-Borrego from February until April.
There is a Spring Wildflower Hotline (619-767-4684). You can request notification of the peak bloom by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to:
Wildflower Notification 200 Palm Canyon Dr. Borrego Springs, CA 92004
The card will be mailed back to you two weeks prior to the expected peak bloom. If you have to choose one week to arrive for the bloom, early March would be your best bet.
Recommended books on flora in the region include California Desert Wildflowers by Philip Munz, 100 Desert Wildflowers of the Southwest by Janice Bowers, Colorful Desert Wildflowers by Grace and Onas Ward, and 70 Common Cacti of the Southwest by Pierre Fischer.
Facilities:Camping Camping needs are met at sites that range from full-service campsites with a fee to free primitive sites. The park is unusual in its open camping policy; visitors can pull off any road to create a camping site.
Pre-existing primitive camp spots can be found at Yaqui Well and Yaqui Pass, near Tamarisk Grove. Blair Valley, cooler than the lower desert, attracts campers to its hidden coves near the rocky margins of Blair Valley. Primitive sites offer little more than a spot to park or put up a tent, and these sites are pack in, pack out.
Two developed campgrounds are available with restrooms with showers, shade ramadas, and campfire programs. Checkout time is noon.
Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, with 117 sites, is located 2.5 miles west of Borrego Springs. Full hookups are offered along with large tent sites, a campfire center, a nature trail, and public telephones. A sanitation station at BPC Campground is available to paid campers and day users.
Tamarisk Grove Campground, located at County Road S-3 and CA 78, has 27 sites for rigs up to 21 feet.
Five group campsites in BPC Campground offer space for groups of 9 to 24 people each. All five sites can be reserved at once for up to 120 people. Large shade ramadas, tables, firerings, and wood-burning cookstoves are provided. Youth groups must have one adult for every 12 minors in camp.
The park has a horse camp (the hub of many riding trails) with 10 campsites, 40 corrals, and solar-heated showers.
Vernon Whitaker Horse Camp sites hold up to eight people and four horses. The camp, located 8 miles north of Borrego Springs, is available by reservation or on a first come, first served basis.
Reservations (800-444-7275) are recommended for camping in the developed, group, and horse camps, especially from October to May. Group reservations may be made six months in advance. Family campsites may be reserved up to eight weeks in advance or as late as two days prior to arrival. Individual sites are assigned upon arrival and cannot be reserved. To cancel reservations, call (619) 452-5956.
A 7,000-square-foot underground visitor center lies at the east end of Palm Canyon Drive in Borrego Springs.
The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October through May. During the summer months of June through September, it is open weekends and holidays only.
The center offers exhibits, nature presentations, maps, and natural history books. Volunteers can help plan your visit. There are slide shows and videos, including "The Other Desert" (orientation to Anza-Borrego) and "The Wildflowers of Anza-Borrego." A 20-minute video about the desert's bighorn sheep is shown periodically.
This is the place to find out current road and weather conditions.
The visitor center is where you can find out about park activities and programs such as naturalists' talks, junior ranger programs (for kids 7-12), nature walks, guided hikes, campfire programs, stargazing programs, fossil programs, and garden walks.
Parking: Contact the park office for information.
Permits: No permits are required.
Day-use fees are $5 per vehicle, $1 per dog, $20 per bus with 10-24 passengers, and $40 per bus with 25 or more passengers. An annual day-use pass costs $75. Senior discounts are available.
During the season, camping fees are: $9 for Bow Willow (the only primitive site with a fee), $18 for BPC with hookup, $14 for BPC with no hookup, $36 for group at BPC, $14 for Tamarisk Grove, and $16 for the horse camp (two horses included in price). Some rates are lower in off-season. Culp Valley, Sheep Canyon, Arroyo Salado, Yaqui Pass, Yaqui Well, Fish Creek, Blair Valley, and Mt. Palm Springs all are free.
Leave No Trace:
Maps: All the information you need can be obtained from the well-stocked shelves of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association, including topo maps and a mountain bike guide.
Available materials include:
Other Trip Options: Although the park has much to offer on its own land, Palamar Mountain State Park and San Diego sites are also in the vicinity.