Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area ~ Spring Wildflowers!
Spring season desert wildflower blooms are always a pleasant sight to see. There are several factors that contribute to the volume and extent of the seasonal wildflower bloom each year and the main element to consider is the amount of rainfall logged during the winter season. In years of drought, the desert wildflower blooms can be sparse, while a wet winter will guarantee an extensive flowering season. Temperature is also a factor, because it takes warmth for the plants to gain the energy to bloom, so a late winter can delay the action. The elevation of the territory can also determine when wildflower blooms take place. Places that are under a mile high will have wildflower blooms long before locations high in the mountains. Of course, each plant species flowers at its own rate and cactus tend to flower mid to late in the spring season, because of the nature of the warm weather loving succulent plant.
It takes rainfall during the winter to initiate the spring season flower blooms that paint the desert with bright colors. During years when a dry winter occurs, the place to look for mass desert wildflower blooms is in canyons or higher elevations in the mountains where a lush microclimate exists. Box canyons that were farmed by natives in ancient times and water seepage areas in sandstone canyons will show a fair share of bright flower colors during a dry year. Basically, one will have to look a little harder to find desert wildflower blooms after a dry winter.
After a wet winter, the spring wildflower season happens quickly. The desert plants simply use the opportunity while good flowering conditions exist to bloom as much as possible and as early as possible. In such a scenario, those who wait till May to look for wildflowers in the desert may be a bit too late and all that will be seen is withered dried up flowers. After a wet winter, it is best to expect early spring season desert wildflowers and the mass blooms can occur just about anywhere.
Mesquite, Nevada is a gateway to 4×4 off-road adventures. There are dozens of dirt roads, 4×4 ATV courses and National Back Country Byways that start near Mesquite. From Mesquite, a Jeep enthusiast can follow dirt roads to Red Cliffs Conservation Area, Zion National Park, Gold Butte National Monument, Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument, Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area. This city definitely is a good base camp choice for off-highway adventures and all of the dirt roads lead to spring season wildflower bloom areas that few others will ever see.
The Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area is easy to get to from Mesquite. From Mesquite, a visitor will actually drive through three states to get to this destination, which is only about 2o minutes away. The access points for the Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area actually are just across the Utah border after passing through a small section of the Arizona Strip. When heading north on Interstate Highway 15 from Mesquite, take the Littlefield Exit Ramp to old U.S. Highway 91. Highway 91 runs north to the Beaver Dam National Conservation Area and you are there!
For today’s cactus flower hunting venture, follow U.S. Highway 91 north from Littlefield, Arizona to the Utah border and this is where the Beaver Dam Wash Conservation Area begins. From this point, there are two dirt roads that head east uphill into the mountains. The first dirt road is the famous Mojave Desert Joshua Tree National Back Country Byway, which is a good choice for seeing spring wildflower blooms. It is the second dirt road that is featured in today’s article, so continue north on Highway 91 just past Castle Cliff, where the roadside caves are located, then look for a well maintained white limestone dirt road that runs east. This dirt road is unmarked, but a map will show that this road runs along the northern border of the Beaver Dam Wash Conservation Area. This is both a ranch road and an access road for the conservation area, so it is indeed a public road. If any cattle gates are closed along the way, just be sure to close them behind you as you pass through, so the ranchers stay happy.
When touring the dirt road along the north border of the conservation area it is likely that there will be plenty of cattle around, so it is best to proceed with caution. Not all western cattle are docile, like “Elsie The Cow” at a cute little dairy farm back east. Free range cattle can be feisty and mean, especially during the spring season. It pays to be aware of the cattle when stepping out of the vehicle, because the not so tame bulls have been known to charge at humans.
Heading uphill into the mountains on this dirt road will reward visitors with breathtaking majestic views! The north border access dirt road goes well into the Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area and there are a few branching arms of the road toward the end. As far as I know, the north border dirt road does not connect with the Mojave Desert Joshua Tree National Back Country Byway, so the same way that a visitor heads in is the same way that a visitor goes out. The north border dirt road is a round trip venture, so getting lost will not be a problem.
The photos for this article were taken in May of 2018 after a very dry winter. I was not expecting much, but to my surprise I saw a small patch of bright pink color poking out of the sage brush on the side of a hill and I immediately knew what the plant was. Beaver Tail Cactus are renowned for their hot pink flowers and these cactus were everywhere along the dirt road trail. From then on, the dirt road sightseeing tour turned into a pink cactus flower hunting excursion!
When considering that the winter of 2019 was an extremely wet one, one can expect a much earlier desert wildflower bloom in the Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area and the bloom will be more extensive as well. The first warm air of spring has already arrived, so the bloom has been triggered. From mid March through late May is when the hills should be starting to become full of bright colors in these parts. For this reason, be sure to bring a good camera along for a Jeep trail venture on the north edge of the Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area!