|Desert gold and Brown-eyed evening primrose near Lower Warm Springs Road February 10|
Lately there has been widespread talk about a potential "superbloom" in Death Valley in 2016, due to the current strong El Nino weather pattern affecting the West Coast. I've been hoping for a particularly strong season, so I've scouted the park from top to bottom, November to February, to monitor what's growing where. I approached from the south at Baker and drove through the park from south to north from February 7 - 11, entering on the high clearance Harry Wade Road near Little Dumont Dunes, crossing the Amargosa River, passing Badwater, Furnace Creek, the closed road to Scotty's Castle and exiting to the north through Joshua Flats on Big Pine Road.
|Death Valley's Ashford Mill, much better than 2015|
Many other areas of the park got a lot of rain at least once, but as we drove by Scotty's Castle for example, which suffered a flood of epic proportions, there were almost no signs of green growth. There were few signs up by Eureka Dunes either, although the area clearly received healthy rain. So areas like these either received rain late and are behind Ashford Mill in timing, on track for a bloom no sooner than late March to April or May, or they didn't get enough water after the original soaking to keep germinated plants growing in ample quantities.
|Sparse but visible and welcome, near Beatty Cutoff|
|Thick patches, not continuous, but extending for miles|
As recently reported, as of mid-February there is a very good bloom of yellow "desert gold" wildflowers near Ashford Mill, about an hour's drive south of Furnace Creek. It is better than last year's bloom there, which was much-hyped at the time, but frankly in my opinion, didn't match expectations once you arrived there. So take reports with a grain of salt. Some reports may be designed to drive park visitation, room stays and meals sold, photography workshop attendance, or in some cases wildly enthusiastic may come simply out of the media's tendency to hype anything and everything.
I'll be conducting a photography workshop in Death Valley National Park from March 1 - 6, 2016. I like to offer a more adventurous workshop to show participants many of the unique locations I've discovered while exploring the park dozens of times over the past 12 years, and while researching locations to refer people to when I started writing my "Photographing California - South" guidebook in 2010. I've found many new locations since the editorial deadline for the Death Valley chapter of that book, so now I'm working on a dedicated Death Valley guide as well. We may take short hikes up up to 1.5 mile each way, so figure we could walk about 4-5 miles in a day.
For more information on the workshop, see the Death Valley workshop page on my blog: http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/death-valley-photography-workshop-2013/
|Sand Verbena and Desert Gold Near Ashford Mill, February 9, 2016|