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Wildflower Viewing in the Western Mojave

To the casual observer, the Western Mojave Desert may appear to be a barren and lifeless wasteland.  However, below the surface, a vast seedbank of annual wildflower seeds lays dormant, waiting for just the right weather conditions to germinate and paint the desert in a riot of color.  In the Mojave, most of the regionīs sparse precipitation falls during the winter months.

mixxed flowers photo

If the winter is warm and moist, especially during the months of February and March, annual wildflower seeds will germinate and flower within five-to-six weeks.  When this happens, the best time to view wildflowers at 1,500 to 3,000 feet above sea level --typical elevations in the Western Mojave Desert-- is from mid-March to mid-April.  Due to variations in temperature caused by increasing altitude, peak wildflower viewing (that is, the best time to see the most wildflowers) will advance upslope at a rate of roughly 1,000 feet, every two weeks.

By the time May arrives, the brilliant yellow, orange, pink, red, white, and blue carpets of wildflowers in the lower desert will begin to fade due to the increasing heat of the advancing Mojave summer.

Wildflower Viewing Locations
On the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management are to be found a number of excellent wildflower-viewing areas.  Please take the precautions of carrying extra drinking water and taking along maps of a given area.  The following will give you a few starting points for your springtime wildflower explorations.

Kane Wash
During wet years, desert lily, blue dicks, and the pincushion flower can be found here.  During most years, brittlebush, desert dandilion, and other common, perennial species can be found blooming in the wash and on the slopes of the canyon.  This is a beautiful desert wash, important to both wildlife and domestic cattle.  It is accessible by four-wheel drive vehicle, but hiking is a much better way to view the wildflowers found here, while also protecting the greater plant community and resident wildlife.

Directions:  From Camp Rock Road (off Interstate-15 at the Daggett, California, exit or by driving north from State Highway 247, just east of Lucerne Valley, California), take Troy Road northeast for approximately five miles, until the road enters Kane Wash.

Kramer Junction
In good years, during the peak of the March-May blooming season, desert candle, woolly sunflower, desert parsley, and Indian paintbrush have been known to flower on desert lands surrounding this California crossroads community.

Directions:  Kramer Junction is located at the junction of State Highway 58 and State Highway 395, about 35 miles due west of Barstow, California.

Sawtooth Ridge
Many species of wildflowers occur here in the springtime.  Some of the more common flowers in the area include the desert aster, the daisy, the desert mallow, and the larkspur.

Directions:  Located just off State Highway 247, approximately half-way between Barstow and Lucerne Valley, California.  Refer to area maps for more specific information.  Located immediately south of the Stoddard Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area, and to the west of the highway.

Wildflower Information:
Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve (661) 724-1180
Death Valley National Park (818) 768-3533
Joshua Tree National Park (760) 367-5500
Mojave National Preserve (760) 252-6100