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,