Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.Albert Einstein
On January 12, 2001, Bill Clinton signed a presidential proclamation establishing the Carrizo Plain as a National Monument. It was about 1987 or so when I made my first visit to this area. The Nature Conservancy sent me here with a mission to capture photos for fundraising to help purchase some of the property. Since then it has become a National Monument, and I’d like to think my efforts helped to protect the area. Since my first visit, the Carrizo Plain has become one of my favorite places. It’s noted for spectacular displays of wildflowers in the spring. Spring of 2017 was considered a “superbloom.” Sometimes called California’s Serengeti the Plain represents the largest single native grassland remaining in California. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for some very significant native American rock art. In 2012 it was designated a National Historic Landmark due to its archaeological value. You can view additional photos here. You can also read a previous blog entry from our spring visit here.
This year’s rain produced a spectacular display of wildflowers on the Carrizo Plain. Here’s a small sampling from the thousand-plus photos I captured on visit. You can see more photos here.
We spent three days on the Carrizo Plain arriving on Sunday afternoon April 9 and leaving the afternoon of April 11. There were two of us and our dog. Yes, the Carrizo is dog friendly. Our first order of business on arriving was to locate a camp site. With the all the press the wildflower bloom has received we were not surprised to find our preferred camp ground, Selby Camp, full. We did manage to squeeze in on the fringes, and the next morning, moved our camp to a regular site with a table, fire pit and awning when it became available. Selby Camp also has water. Monday we set out to explore Elkhorn Road and the wildflowers on the Temblor range, stopping at Wallace Creek to do a short hike to explore the San Andreas Fault. There are few places in the world where you can see the effects of a fault that are as dramatic as Wallace Creek. From there we drove south a few miles and found a spot we could hike up into the hills. The array of wildflowers is just astounding. On Tuesday we spent our time around Soda Lake.
The park is a bit off the beaten path. It’s situated at 2000 feet of elevation between the Caliente and Temblor Mountain ranges. From the west you can approach from Highway 101 or from the East from Interstate 5. There is not much in the valley in the way of services, so make sure you top off your gas tank before entering the valley, perhaps on Highway 101 or I5. It’s 50 miles from the park headquarters to the nearest gas station, and you can easily run up your mileage while exploring the park. It’s an expansive park. I carry food and water for my stay in the valley. There is water at the park visitor center and at Selby Camp, but in years past water hasn’t always been available. Besides Selby Camp there is another camp ground, KCL camp further south. There is also dispersed camping off the valley floor in areas that were previously disturbed. There is also a motel, the California Valley Motel on Soda Lake Rd North of the park.
While the Carrizo Plain is noted for spring wildflower displays, there are also other sites to visit when the wildflowers are not in bloom. There are several rock formations with displays of Indian petrographs (images painted on rock). Most of these rocks, including Painted Rock are off limits in the spring when birds are nesting. Pronghorn antelope, coyotes, and a number other birds and animals inhabit the plain also.
The Carrizo Plain has been called California’s Serengeti It’s a broad plain, most of which has not been disturbed by modern agriculture and irrigation. It represents what the Central Valley May have looked like before agriculture.
I made my first visit to the Carrizo Plain in 1988 when The Nature Conservancy hired me to photograph, what was then ranch land, and since then it’s become one of my favorite places to visit. Untrammeled, broad open spaces and remote.