What Is Anza-Borrego?
In terms of the deserts of North America, what we call the Anza-Borrego Desert
is a section of the Sonoran Desert. Some references use the term Colorado
Desert to refer to portions of the Sonoran Desert which are or have been
influenced by actions of the Colorado River. In this sense, Anza-Borrego is
part of the Colorado Desert.
The term Anza-Borrego Desert Region is applied to the territory
Desert State Park and beyond. The region is in San Diego County and parts
of Imperial and Riverside counties in California between the eastern slopes
of the Peninsular Ranges (east of Highway 79) and the Salton Sea. In the north,
it extends eastward across the Santa Rosa Mountains from the town of Anza
on Highway 371. In the south, it extends to the border with Mexico.
The picture above provides an idea as to how this desert comes to be. The
picture was taken in the north end of the San Felipe Valley facing south,
beside the Volcan Mountains which are part of the Peninsular Ranges. On the
morning it was taken, a storm was blowing from west to east (right to left).
Mountains such as Granite Mountain which is partly hidden by clouds in the
lower third of the picture, just to the right of center, stood in the storm's
path. When the storm hit the mountains, the clouds were pushed skyward and
apart as most of their moisture evaporated. Little or no rain ever reached
the desert. This is what is known as a rain shadow. It is a frequent occurence
across San Diego and Orange counties inland from the Pacific Ocean.
Some of the things that people discover when they visit Anza-Borrego are
- The Plant Kingdom — For most visitors, this means
wildflowers. Every Spring (and sometimes even late Winter) people flock to
Anza-Borrego to see the displays of wildflower color. Those who visit or live
in the desert for all or most of the year know how to find colorful blossoms
at other times of the year as well. People get to know the flowers. They study
them. Those with an anthropological interest may try to imagine how native
people lived here hundreds and thousands of years ago and used these plants
for food, shelter and other purposes.
- The Animal Kingdom — There is the ever-present coyote.
There is the bighorn sheep (borrego in Spanish) for which the area is named.
There are regular visitors like Canada geese to the Salton Sea, Swainson's
hawks to the Borrego Valley which are preceded by the caterpillars on which
they feed. There are a few snakes. There are insects which feed on the flowers.
There are birds, some of whom feed on insects and some on rodents, all of
whom find water in pools and springs.
- The Mineral Kingdom — For rockhounds, the problem
with the state park is that you can look at anything you want, but you can't
take it home with you. Elsewhere, in Bureau of Land Management territory,
these restrictions do not apply as long as you keep what you find for yourself.
- Geology — Most visitors probably
associate geology with easily visible land formations such as the Borrego
Badlands, Split Mountain Gorge, the Carrizo-Vallecito Badlands and various
mountains and canyons. Those with a keen eye (and know a fossil when they
see one) recognize that Anza-Borrego is a land with a past, a vast area
once attached to Mexico and through the ages covered by fresh water and
salt water and traversed by streams which supported forests and animals.
The area was then, and continues to be, sculpted by earthquakes. Borrego
has its faults, several of them.
- Anthropology and History — Evidence of prehistoric
man has been found in the Yuha Desert. Evidence of Native American life
is found throughout all of Anza-Borrego. Many relics of Native American
life now are found in private collections or in publicmuseums. The most
visible signs of this part of the area's are faint trails, usually in the
mountains, and pictographs and petroglyphs which are collectively known
as rock art.
- Astronomy — Nearby city lights
are never a help, of course, but nights in Borrego under clear skies can
be wonderful for star-gazing.
- Peace and Quiet — There can be plenty of that in