Will Spring Bring Gorgeous Wildflowers to Death Valley National Park?

Spring of 2005 saw an incredible bloom of wildflowers, as this field of Desert Gold shows. Photo by zota via flickr

Spring 2005 in Death Valley National Park gained venerated status among flower lovers for its incredible wildflower blooms. Those blooms -- dubbed the "bloom of the century" -- were trigged by heavy fall and winter rains that dumped almost 6.5 inches of moisture on Death Valley.

So, with 2008 starting out stormy in the West, how will Death Valley's blooms be this spring?

Well, apparently they won't be too good, unless some of that moisture begins to hit Death Valley.

According to Terry Baldino, the park's assistant chief of interpretation, while California has been battered by rains and Reno and Tahoe buried under snow, Death Valley so far has received scant rainfall. This past weekend, when California was getting walloped and the Rockies buried, Death Valley received five-hundredths of an inch of rain, says Ranger Baldino.

"There's lots of little stuff coming up," he says. "What will really make them taken off is a little more rain."

Spring of 2005 brought showy displays of Phacelia, a purple flower also known as scorpionweed, and Desert Gold, a flower that resembles a sunflower. For a repeat of that performance, Ranger Baldino says the park would need a month of rain.

Unfortunately, "the weather patterns just don’t indicate that kind of moisture,” he adds.

Still, there should be some nice pockets of wildflowers in the park this spring. Your best bet to spotting them, says Ranger Baldino, is to head through the park's south entrance via California 178 near Shoshone off California 127. The relatively high elevation -- Salsberry Pass tops out at 3,315 feet -- captures more moisture than lower sections of Death Valley and so is likely to offer decent conditions for wildflowers.