2023 Arizona Super Bloom
An artist attempting to capture the beauty of the super bloom.
On March 28-30, 2023, Kate and I headed south to see a rare “super bloom” event near Mesa, Arizona. I took a few photos and videos of our trip. The text below explains what all these photos and videos are about.
At John’s recommendation (thank you John!), we took Highway 87 south until we reached Bush Highway (aka FR 204), which is where we saw an impressive super bloom. It was located on the side of the road. There were bumper-to-bumper cars parked all along the road while people were out in the field wading through the flowers.
Since we got a late start, we didn’t shoot any photos or videos our first day. We just located the bloom, drove by, and then started looking for a place to spend the night. After checking out a bunch of locations that didn’t work out, we headed back up Highway 87 and found a huge parking area about 3/4 of a mile off Highway 87 and parked there for the night. There were only a few cars there when we arrived at dusk. There was, however, lots of commotion all night long. Cars and pickups driving by at all hours; some pulled into the parking lot and then left. We could also hear sporadic gunfire coming from the other side of Highway 87. In the middle of the night, Kate and I were both awakened by THREE LOUD KNOCKS on our cars. Both of us, in our respective cars, jumped up and looked around and didn’t see anyone anywhere. We both thought maybe we were imagining the knocks, but when we touched base in the morning, and discovered we both had the same experience, we were left wondering what that was about! Still don’t know! There were no cars. No lights. No people. No nothing. Just THREE LOUD KNOCKS ON OUR CARS. Weird.
In the morning we discovered the area we parked was a large staging area for Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV). Tons of large and small rigs started arriving around 8AM. Here’s a map that marks where we camped the first and second night so you can see where we were. We were in the Four Peaks area. There are also some photos of the large staging area and a video of what we saw the next morning when all the OHV folks started arriving.
Most of the photos and videos were taken on our second day. Our first destination was the super bloom we saw the day before which, again, was located right off Bush Highway. There are lots of photos and videos of that location. Since Kate was familiar with the area, she was our tour guide. Among other things, we visited The Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch, which is a ranch where Kate had stayed with her best friend from England. We also had a picnic at the Butcher Jones Beach. Then we started looking for a place to camp. We expected to find some dispersed camping places in the area but all the places that were normally open were closed because of recent flooding. So we headed back to the Four Peaks area. We thought we might find a place to camp on the opposite side of the road, but while the area was nicer, we discovered it had been trashed by party-goers and target shooters. There was garbage everywhere, mixed in with broken glass and empty shell casings. So we headed back where we had been the night before, but further in. That’s where we found some great dispersed camping places. You can see from the photos I took there how beautiful it was. We’ll probably go back there again some day.
The next morning, we went for a short hike and discovered that a fire had swept through the area, destroying many of the saguaro cactuses, which made for a very eerie sight. Many other plants had also been burned to a crisp and, strangely, there was also a computer in the middle of nowhere that had been burned and melted. I have included a photo of that along with the spooky skeleton cactuses.
To keep things interesting, we also experienced a variety of weather: a hot and sunny first day was followed by a morning rainstorm, snow on the Four Peaks and a cool/cold second day.
On our way back to Sedona, we stopped at an Arizona Trail entry point (the photo with all the shoes hanging in the tree is from hikers who left their shoes behind as a sign they hiked the trail). We also visited The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, which is near Payson. Here’s a brief description of the park from the park’s website:
“Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is located in central Arizona near Payson. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point. There are three hiking trails, a picnic area, and a group use area. The park provides habitat for animals, insects, and birds as well as Interpretive exhibits including artifacts on the history of Tonto Natural Bridge, plus information about travertine, prehistoric inhabitants, and the historic Goodfellow Lodge.”
I thought the early history of the park was interesting. The lodge had photos of the first white people who settled the area, including a tenacious Scotsman who had some challenging encounters with Apaches who apparently didn’t take kindly to him moving into their territory. The lodge also had several local animals on display, including a gnarly javelina. Be sure to notice the javelina’s large, tusk-like fangs. You wouldn’t want to be on the biting end of those puppies. Those tusks aren’t visible when you spot javelinas meandering down a road or walking through your backyard. We have a family of javelinas that regularly passes through our back yard. Occasionally, if I happen to be outside and stand still, they will come up to me. Cautiously, they will come up, give me a hello sniff, and then mosey on their way. When they do stop by I am very careful to be still and not startle them. They reportedly aren’t aggressive unless they are cornered — or startled. And they startle easily because they have poor eyesight.
Along with the photos and videos I took of the park, here’s a quick promotional video you can watch:
And that’s a wrap. If you have any questions, text me…
BTW, I asked ChatGPT about super bloom events:
How often do super bloom events happen near Phoenix, Arizona?
“Super bloom events are not common occurrences in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Super blooms are a rare event that typically happens once every few years when there is an unusually high amount of rainfall in a short period of time, which causes wildflowers to bloom en masse.
“While Arizona has seen some super blooms in recent years, they have been more common in other areas of the state, such as the Sonoran Desert near Tucson. However, the frequency and timing of super blooms are unpredictable and depend on a variety of factors, such as weather patterns, temperature, and soil conditions.”