DEATH VALLEY, Calif., April 10, 2014 – Monet would have a field day. California’s Death Valley National Park is enjoying a colorful spring and looking forward to a vibrant summer thanks to a surprisingly good emerging wildflower season. In recent weeks, the rugged desert park has become reminiscent of a Monet painting, with shades of gold, pink, purple, orange and white dotting the landscape of the 3.3 million acre park.
“We’d heard from the National Park Service that 2014 wasn’t going to be a particularly strong wildflower year, but happily, those predictions were not accurate, and we are now enjoying a wildly colorful spring,” said Denise Perkins, director of sales and marketing for Furnace Creek Resort. “The ruggedness of the desert has a certain kind of magic to it year-round, and the wash of vibrant color this year has added a much-appreciated dimension to the beauty of the park.”
Most wildflower-watchers at the National Park Service and the park’s Furnace Creek Resort didn’t expect a banner year this spring because the trifecta of conditions needed for a good bloom – moisture throughout winter and spring, sufficient warmth and minimal winds – did not occur. Yet colorful desert gold, monkeyflowers, golden evening primrose and other blooms have been sprouting up along the park’s roads and hillsides.
Perkins said she’s seen numerous visitors stopped at roadside viewpoints throughout the park photographing the flowers. “If visitors take away anything, it should only be a photograph,”she said. “It is illegal to pick wildflowers in the park. Every seed is needed to repopulate the park the next year.”
According to the National Park Service’s Wildflower Update, the bloom is a result of rainfall in the higher elevations of the park, especially in the Panamint Mountains. And the Park Service is predicting the colorful show will continue through the summer.
During an especially good bloom year, the first desert gold wildflowers begin to bloom on a hilly, volcanic area north of Ashford Mill, near Furnace Creek Resort. They are joined by flowers with such evocative names as desert star, evening primrose, verbena and poppy. By late April, the Panamint Mountains and other higher climes welcome paintbrush, lupine and panamint daisies. Even the spiny cacti and Joshua trees may blossom. The Mojave wild rose, hardy rabbitbrush and delicate mariposa lilies join the show.
Most desert wildflowers are annuals, sometimes called ephemerals because they are so short-lived. But this limited lifespan is exactly what ensures their survival. Rather than struggle to stay alive during the desert’s most extreme conditions, annual wildflowers lie dormant as seeds. When enough rain finally does fall, the seeds quickly sprout, grow, bloom and go back to seed again. By blooming all at the same time during good years, wildflowers can attract large numbers of pollinators – butterflies, moths, bees and hummingbirds – not normally found in Death Valley.
During the month of April, the average daytime high is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature falls to the low 60s in the evening. In May, the average daytime high is around 100 degrees and the nighttime average is in the low 70s.
The Furnace Creek Resort has been welcoming guests since the 1930s. The historic Inn at Furnace Creek is open from mid-October through mid-May. It features 66 rooms, including two suites with a full array of amenities, fine dining, massage therapy, tennis courts and a spring-fed pool. Open year-round, the Ranch at Furnace Creek is situated adjacent to the golf course and features 224 rooms in a casual setting.
Editor's note: The Deserts section of Taste California Travel's Resource Directory will have a link to the website of the Furnace Creek Resort, as well as links to other Loding and Dining opportunities in this beautiful part of Southern California.