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What Is a Superbloom?

What Is a Superbloom?

The desert is one of the last places you expect to see the landscape covered in breathtakingly beautiful wildflowers. Still, there’s a tiny chance you can experience a super bloom during your next trip to the desert if you’re fortunate. We have spent enough time RVing in the desert that, fortunately, we have seen two of these amazing events; however, it’s a very rare phenomenon.

So what is a super bloom, and where can you find one? Join us to see our pictures and find out more!

What Is a Superbloom?

A super bloom is a unique phenomenon in desert landscapes involving wildflowers and other vegetation. A Superbloom is when most of the flowering plants all flower at once, causing the desert to burst into brilliant colors. Because of the open spaces, you can usually see the colors from miles away.  

The normally dry and barren desert grounds come to life with brightly colored wildflowers. Superblooms don’t occur under ordinary circumstances, which is why they’re extremely rare to see.

Superbloom on hillside
This was a super bloom we caught in the Mohave desert

What Causes a Superbloom?

For a superbloom to occur, the land needs a generous amount of rainfall in the autumn that can soak the soil and reach any dormant seeds. Too much water can wash the seeds away, and too little water causes the plants to dehydrate and die.

Not only must the seeds get wet, but the seeds must slowly warm over several months. They also need some cloud cover to protect the soil from heat.

Once the plants reach the surface and bloom, the landscapes come alive with colors. Superblooms are a massive concentration of plants that spread over the landscape.

California Superbloom
Superblooms are very rare.

Where Can You Find a Superbloom?

Because the conditions have to be just right for a superbloom to occur, they don’t happen just anywhere. Southern California’s deserts and grasslands are the most popular places to see the phenomenon.

During the largest bloom event, hundreds of square miles of flowers fill the landscapes for almost two months.

Camped in the Super Bloom! Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

When Was the Last Superbloom?

The last superbloom occurred in 2019. It received several nicknames, but the most popular was “Poppypalooza.” It occurred south of Los Angeles in Lake Elsinore, Calif. 

Traffic jams were frequent, and parking spots were nonexistent. The area experienced well over 150,000 visitors in one weekend. It quickly becomes a chaotic and unsafe scene.

According to KQED, Mayor Steve Manos said, “Interstate 15 was a parking lot. People fainted in the heat; a dog romping through the fields was bitten by a rattlesnake.” 

It seems people lost all common sense trying to experience the breathtaking landscapes.

Travel Tip: Besides heat and snakes, you’ll need to be aware of the dangers of Valley Fever if you plan to visit the desert. Here’s What You Need to Know About Valley Fever Before Your Roadtrip.

How Often Is the Superbloom? 

Superblooms happen sporadically, typically only every 10 to 15 years. Several of the last events occurred in 1998, 2005, 2016, and 2019. So many things must happen in the right way at the right time. 

Wildlife agents can often predict any possible blooms based on the amount of rainfall in the winter and spring, temperatures, and winds. 

If researchers see the ideal conditions, a buzz around the upcoming phenomenon will begin in the area as they anticipate the possibility of a beautiful view for a month or two.

superbloom of 2019
Superblooms happen only every 10 to 15 years. This was a superbloom we saw in 2019 in southern california

What Month Does the Desert Bloom?

When desert blooms occur depends on the elevation of the area. Lower elevations will experience superblooms from mid-February to mid-April. Elevations from 3,000 to 5,000 feet will occur from early April to early May.

Finally, areas from 5,000 to 11,000 feet will experience the events from early May to mid-July. While it may not be possible to guarantee a sighting, you can at least check the season’s forecast.

There are a few popular places for witnessing desert superblooms. However, remember that they’re very rare, and you have no guarantees, no matter the location. Still, the following places provide some spectacular views when they do occur.

1. Death Valley

Death Valley is a fantastic place to witness a superbloom when they occur. The most recent ones in this area occurred in 1998, 2005, and 2016. 

The typically barren and lifeless lands in Death Valley come alive with colors and vegetation during these spectacular botanical events. Although it doesn’t occur every year, usually, some wildflowers manage to come to life throughout the valley.

Don’t forget that picking wildflowers in the national park is illegal. By the National Park Service protecting the wildflowers, it helps ensure they produce seeds for future wildflower seasons and any superblooms.

Travel Tip: Want to camp among the wildflowers in Death Valley? Check out our Complete Guide to Death Valley Camping.

Death Valley Superbloom
Death Valley is one place where you may see a superbloom.

2. Anza Borrego

State parks in the Golden State don’t get enough respect. Many flock to the nine national parks in California and bypass some of the incredible beauty found in the state park system. 

Anza Borrego State Park is another popular place for these wildflower events. It happens once every few years and is one of the few places where it can occur in the early spring. 

The fields come to life with colorful blooming flowers such as desert sunflowers, brown-eye primrose, pincushion, sand verbena, and desert lilies. However, superblooms here typically only last a few weeks and draw huge swarms of visitors.

We have seen one of the superblooms at Anza and it got very crowded trying to get into the state park. Keep in mind that you can usually still see the flowers in the surrounding desert just fine and not deal withe the crowds.

3. Antelope Valley

Antelope Valley consistently has these bloom events. Every spring, the Mojave Desert Grassland countryside explodes with a massive amount of wildflowers. 

You can hike the more than eight miles of trails throughout the park and enjoy the gentle, rolling hills. It even has a paved section that allows wheelchair access so everyone can enjoy the views. 

Additionally, you can tune in to the park’s “Poppy Cam” to see the landscape for yourself. However, the landscapes in this area don’t measure up without a superbloom.

We have been fortunate enough to get to see this bloom as well. Keep in mind that this area can frequently be extremely windy.

Poppies in Antelope Valley
Poppies bloom in Antelope Valley in the spring.

Is It Worth Visiting the Desert During a Superbloom?

Getting to see a desert superbloom is a once-in-a-lifetime event for many people. If you have the opportunity to experience it, you won’t want to miss it. It may become something you and your family remember for the rest of your lives. Just charge your phone and free up space to capture as many pictures as you can to share with others.

Thinking about dry camping in the California desert? Find out first: Does California Allow Boondocking?

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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