Most Arizona canyons are past peak for fall color. Still some color in Arnett Canyon but the normal northern entrance is closed for highway construction so you will need to come in the East or West ends of the canyon. Some images from Aravaipa and Hell Hole Canyons last week. Still some color along the Colorado River from Lake Havasu to Yuma for the next few weeks. Wildflower update: We had great rains so far this year for the 2016 bloom then dried out for almost a month. This rain we had this week was needed and should help. The brittle bush is growing very well and should have a great showing next year. The cactus are all fat and look good. We should know how the wildflower bloom will look early next year so keep an eye on this blog and don’t forget the NEW, Wild in Arizona – Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers makes a great Christmas gift. Happy Holidays everyone and heres to a great wildflower year in 2016.
The Huachuca Mountains has just hit peak color this week. Ramsey canyon is having a great year for fall foliage and should last 1 more week. Miller Canyon has some leaf damage from insects and is just past peak. Huachuca Canyon is at peak last weekend. Garden Canyon was still mostly green and looks a bit damaged. San Pedro river has just a little color left on the northern sections. The road into Cave Creek in the Chirichuas is reportedly closed with flood damage to Maple Camp. Ash Canyon in the Galiuro Mountains is having a banner year with peak just past. Madera Canyon in the Santa Ritas is also just pass peak with a week left.
Most of the fall color on top the Mogollon Rim is past with small pockets of maples in Barbershop and Turkey Creek. Most of the maples have not peaked in Horton, Christopher Creek, and Mingus mountain. West Fork is showing but just not a great year so far for fall color in Arizona. Hope to have some southern Arizona fall color reports in the next few weeks.
Happy Earth Day, everyone! As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Earth laughs in flowers.” Based on what I saw up in Marble Canyon last week, the planet must be in hysterics!
Following a tip-off last from my good friends, Terry and Wendy Gunn of Cliff Dwellers Lodge, I visited the Marble Canyon area last Wednesday through Monday to chase what they had referred to as a “bloom of a decade.” They were spot on! Although the weather was a bit unsettled last week (stormy and windy), the flowers absolutely did not disappoint!
Extensive fields of full desert globemallow and prickly pear cactus are peaking right now south of Highway 89A near the Soap Creek and Badger Creek overlooks (several gates into BLM land provide access – 2WD high-clearance recommended for these roads). New flowers like Prince’s plume, sego lilies, banana yuccas, and scorpionweed are starting to pop up as well in varying quantities. With a little dab of rain, even more flowers will start to show in the next week or so. Although I didn’t have time to scout, the locals suggested the bloom could extend as far west as House Rock Valley Road.
We also meandered upstream along the Paria River from the Lees Ferry area in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, where we spotted multiple species of prickly pear in full bloom (with ample buds still waiting to pop), globemallow, banana yucca, and more during our easy hike.
As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s a great time to remind everyone to practice “Leave No Trace” principles as you’re out enjoying the wildflowers. Please watch you step out there so that others can enjoy the blooms as well.
Happy wildflower hunting!
I had heard mixed feedback on what was happening out at Bartlett Lake for wildflowers, so I decided to take a quick spin up there yesterday morning to see for myself and to form my own.
How good the bloom is up there depends on your perspective. If you’ve never seen wildflowers before in the desert, you’ll likely be impressed. If you experience the 2005 or the 2009 bloom you might be slightly underwhelmed. Regardless, enough flowers are blooming to make it worth a visit now and within the next two weeks.
Along Bartlett Dam Road, keep your eyes open for nice patches of smaller Mexican gold poppies dotting the hillsides starting around milepost 8 to milepost 11 on the north side of the street. After milepost 10 (but before milepost 11, near the Tonto National Forest sign), a vibrant patch of sizable poppies is already peaking. In this same area, the flanks of the cliffs are starting to show blankets of yellow.
Because a fair number of these poppy fields face east, you might not spot them as you drive in (but will be blatantly obvious on the drive out). So either bring a driver to free you up to scout or glance over your shoulder occasionally as you come into this area so as to not miss some great photographic opportunities.
Perennials like brittlebush, chuparosa, and fairy duster are out in force, but it looks as if there’s even more to come in the weeks ahead. A nice patch of lupine appears along Bartlett Dam Road near the turnoff for Forest Service Road 459 on the shoulder as well as along FSR 459 near the Rattlesnake Cove turnoff. A handful of chia, cream cups, filaree, and desert marigolds round out the showing.
If poppies are what you seek, I’d recommend heading that way within the next week. Perennials making a good start and will look great (if not better) over the next two weeks. For more information about Bartlett Lake, check out page 96 in our first edition of the “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers” book (the second edition should start shipping on Monday, March 23!).
I also hiked the Telegraph Pass Trail in South Mountain Park and Preserve on Sunday afternoon. Overall the desert landscape presented few flowers on the ground, but on the lower elevations of this trail, the strawberry hedgehog and cholla cacti displayed impressive color. Some strawberry hedgehog cacti showcased 8-12 beautiful blooms! Probably have about a week left to see these splashes of color there.
Happy wildflower hunting,
Wildflowers are showing in the Warm Springs Wilderness. Wild in Arizona book, location 14, page 64. Poppies, Lupine, and Beavertail Cactus are in bloom now. Brittlebush about two weeks away. The flowers are on the north west slopes in three canyons. (see map in book) road is high clearance now, and 4×4 is a good idea. Organ Pipe is not having a good bloom yet, report back when the brittle bush starts. Buckskin and Gibraltar have a few wildflowers with Cactus coming on strong in the next few weeks.
The rains last week have given already blooming areas like the Peridot Mesa a second wind. There is also a good bladderpod carpets between Safford and Clifton. You will need to jump barbwire fences and hike to the hillsides if you want the poppies. There is a nice carpet of poppies on the south side of 70 around San Jose but will need to jump fences which I don’t suggest not knowing who owns that land.
Some quick midday wildflower scouting images. Picacho Peak is now showing good groupings of poppies around the Sunset Vista trail and Children’s Cave Trail. The brittle bush, lupine and globemallow is starting on the upper peaks and roadsides.
With this rain It should be an excellent bloom in the next few weeks. (See page 178 of the 1st edition). If you don’t want to deal with the crowds there is a good bloom starting along the Sasco Road heading into Ironwood Forest National Monument. (page 180, 1st edition) the hillsides have poppies and the low areas are covered with carpets of globmallow.
If Mexican gold poppies are what you seek, then drop everything this instant and RUN – don’t walk! – to Peridot Mesa on the San Carlos Indian Reservation.
Paul and I had heard substantiated rumors from a couple friends (thanks Ron and Lori!) of “fields and fields of poppies” in this location. Based on when the flowers normally bloom here (mid-March), it seemed a little early, but the weather has been warm until recently. I took my camera and curiosity out to Peridot Mesa yesterday. And oh my! The hillsides were covered with poppies!
Mainly poppies, but also some blue dicks, lupine, and budding globemallow, blanketed the basin in between Peridot Mesa and Peridot Hills. With the cooler temperatures, the poppies began closing up quite early (about 2 hours before ‘sunset). As a couple walking the dirt road at sunset suggested, “The flowers have been sleeping [i.e., closing early] for three days in the cold.”
In sampling a number of clusters, it appears there are just as many buds waiting to bloom as there are flowers in bloom. Also, in surveying the ground, the lupine, blue dicks, globemallow, and other flowers are just starting to show. With this in mind – even though it looks stunning now – I think this location has yet to officially peak. Now, that said, forecasters are predicting 85-100% chance of rain in Phoenix starting Saturday and lasting through Tuesday. A heavy rain could damage the delicate and dainty poppy blooms, but could encourage the other blooms to continue their progress.
We added Peridot Mesa to our expanded 2nd edition of our book, “Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers.” We are finishing the proofing process as we speak, but here’s a sneak peak of location #48: Peridot Mesa in case you wish to put it to good use immediately - please practice “Leave No Trace” principles and do not trample the flowers so that others may enjoy this beautiful site as well.
(Note: more wildflower updates after the sample)
In addition to Peridot Mesa, we are hearing consistent reports that wildflowers are showing off in Picacho Peak State Park (location #53 in 1st edition; #51 in 2nd edition).
En route to the San Carlos Indian Reservation, I noted that Silly Mountain (location #32 in 1st and 2nd editions) is staring to display some yellow on the brittlebush at higher elevations. I’d check this spot out in a week or so.
We’ve heard things are just starting at Catalina State Park (#55/#53) and at Pipeline Canyon Trail/Lake Pleasant (#21/20) so keep an eye on those two spots in the weeks ahead via the 2015 Arizona State Parks Ranger Cam (which they did not turn on for 2014′s bloom) at azstateparks.com/RangerCam2015 and DesertUSA’s Wildflower reports at www.desertusa.com/wildflo/wildupdates.html.
Finally, while driving along Highway 93 last week, on Monday, I saw a healthy amount of Joshua tree blooms along the road. On my way back through the area on Thursday afternoon, almost all the blooms had disappeared and were replaced by blackened, dead stalks. We can’t explain the short-lasting bloom nor determine if additional blooms will appear, but from last week’s observations, the Joshua tree bloom might have happened and ended within a week’s time frame last week.
Happy wildflower hunting and shooting!
It’s raining again this morning in Phoenix and the only things fuller than the typically dry desert washes right now are Paul’s and my email inbox’s flooded with questions similar to “With all this rain we’re getting, will this be the killer wildflower bloom we’ve all be waiting for in the Arizona desert?”
After less than spectacular blooms for the past several years, this year, we are optimistically encouraged by the amount of precipitation – and as a result, the greening desert. Although the verdict is still out on what will develop, we do have some early indications of what may come to pass for this year’s desert bloom.
We have been tracking the actual rainfall in a number of key flower hot spots since November, which is when we need abundant winter rains to trigger the sprouting process. (We need solid rains in November and December, and then steady sprinkles in January, February, and March for a great annual bloom). Based on rainlog.org data, here’s what we’ve seen in areas where rainfall amounts are collected:
As you can see, the season didn’t start off terribly well (zero rain in November), but has rebounded quite impressively in December and into January (and it’s still raining, at least in Phoenix, as we speak). Whether December’s amounts were enough to make up for November’s will remain unknown until we see the magnitude and depth of the spring bloom beginning in the next three to six weeks.
Around the start of the new year, the desert experienced a couple of freezes. The brittlebush bloom had begun early in some locations, but then those buds froze. The perennial plants seem to be re-budding as the weather warms, which is good news. The poppies and other annuals were also affected by the freeze. How much so, though, will also remain a mystery until we start to see the annual bloom appear.
February is a critical month. Sort of like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, everything needs to be “just right.” Too much rain could encourage the grasses to grow and choke out flowers. Too little rain could cause a smaller bloom. Cold weather could slow the progress and delay the bloom while warm weather could speed it up.
According to NOAA, Arizona remains in an El Nino Watch status with a 50-60% of this system emerging onto the scene in the next two months. An El Nino typically brings additional rain to the desert southwest, which can affect the annual, perennial, and cactus bloom starting in late February through June. The Farmer’s Almanac is also predicting rain showers for the area from February 1-7 and again February 21-26. If this prediction pans out, it’s the steady sprinkles we need at the precisely the right time of year.
What can you do to get ready for what’s to come?
- Keep an eye on the rainfall for February.
- Watch websites like DesertUSA Wildflower Updates and our Wild in Arizona blog for eyes-on field reports.
- Dust off your camera and start practicing your macro techniques.
- And if you haven’t done so already, pre-order a copy of the expanded 2nd edition of our award-winning guidebook, Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers, A Guide to When, Where, & How via our Indiegogo campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/wild-in-az-photographing-az-s-wildflowers-book. As Mother Nature decides what kind of bloom year we’ll have, the book will help you prepare and get you in the right place at the right time as things materialize out there!
Keep your fingers crossed, everyone!
Colleen & Paul