Death Valley: Superbloom of 2016

We wanted to see and photograph wildflowers at Death Valley National Park, but the wind blew very hard our first sunset and sunrise at the park. For a sharp photo, the flower has to be motionless, not a blur as it whips back and forth in the wind.

The wind died down in the morning while we hiked Golden Canyon, so after lunch we drove more than an hour south to the end of Badwater Road, where the best wildflowers were reported to be. Death Valley usually gets only 2″ of rain a year. Record rains last October washed out the road to Badwater from the east, and that storm triggered the best wildflower bloom since 2005, according to the New York Times.

Shown above, a plain of desert gold flowers is the face of the Death Valley superbloom — fields of desert gold or desert sunflower (geraea canescens), with the Amargosa Range in the background.

Where the road is closed from the October flood damage, we found a sheltered spot with flowers. Here they had some protection from wind, and the shade of the north-facing slope provided a dark background for the blossoms. Desert golds grow to 2′ tall, and their large, gold blossoms look like daisies. Using a longer focal length (105 mm) blurred the background behind the blossoms.

desert gold blossom
desert gold blossom
desert gold blossoms
desert gold blossoms (click to enlarge)

Here’s the rest of the same plant, taken with a shorter focal length (65 mm) and longer exposure.

desert gold
the desert gold plant

The flowers might last only until mid-March unless there’s more rain. It rained several inches in October, but the ground is now dry. There high winds with gusts to 50 mph just before we saw these flowers. It’s been warm, with highs in the 70s. It’s surprising that these flowers look this fresh. They’re amazingly tough, but they can only last so long.

The desert gold is a California native plant, as are the other wildflowers we saw on the Badwater Road. Death Valley gets scant rainfall, so only the California native plants of the Mojave Desert can survive here. Other wildflowers will be covered in future posts.

We reserved lodging at Death Valley the past few years, only to defer those trips because low rainfall produced poor wildflower blooms. This year we were lucky. 🙂


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

One thought on “Death Valley: Superbloom of 2016”

  1. Beautiful flowers. Sounds like challenging conditions for both photographer and flower, alike. Looking forward to the additional flowers you promise.


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