Covering an area of six hundred thousand square acres, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California, and the second largest state park in the United States. It makes up twenty percent of San Diego county and is situated in the Colorado Desert region of that county. This park is named after the eighteenth century explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word for Bighorn sheep, Borrego.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park contains twelve wilderness areas, an extensive network of hiking trails covering approximately one hundred miles, and over five hundred miles of dirt roads. Visitors from all over the United States flock to this park to experience the beautiful desert vistas of the Colorado Desert ecosystem which features beautiful badlands, intriguing rock formations, desert washes and stunning mountains. There are also many people who visit this beautiful state park to experience the diverse collection of flora and fauna that is contained within its borders. Some of the flora specimens that can be seen in this park include Palo Verde-cactus shrubs, Palo Verde trees, Ocotillo, Sonoran microphylla woodlands, Catclaw and Honey Mesquite. Fauna in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park include Coyotes, Black-tailed jackrabbits, Red diamond rattlesnakes, Golden eagles, Prairie falcons, Desert Bighorn Sheep and Kit foxes.
For thousands of years, the area which encompasses Anza-Borrego Desert State Park was inhabited by various Native American tribes which included the Kumeyaay, Cahuilla, Diegueño and Cupeño tribes. Many of these tribes left beautiful and historically important works of cave art in the area, which can be seen by any visitor to the park willing to take a little time out of their hike. Because of the cultural importance of this cave art, the state of California has established seven cultural reserves in the park. These reserves are the Angelina Spring Cultural Preserve, Southern Overland Trail Cultural Preserve, Little Blair Valley Cultural Preserve, Coyote Canyon Cultural Preserve, Hawi-Vallecito Cultural Preserve, Piedras Grandes Cultural Preserve, and Culp Valley Cultural Preserve. Travel by automobile in these areas is strictly limited to designated roads to decrease the environmental impact on the artifacts located there.
A must stop for any visitor entering Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center provides guests to the park with maps detailing its trails and campgrounds. Guests can also watch the free sixteen minute slide program which features detailed information on the park and its ecosystem.
Just outside of the Visitor Center is one of the most popular destinations of the park, the Desert Garden. The Desert Garden allows visitors the unique opportunity to get a close-up look at some of the flora that is contained within the park. Also located within the Desert Garden is the pupfish pond. This pond contains Salton Sea pupfish which first evolved during the Ice Age and eventually became adapted to conditions in the desert. These fish can survive extreme swings of temperature; from temperatures as low to freezing, to temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature of the water becomes uncomfortable to these fish, they can burrow themselves in the mud at the bottom of the pond and hibernate.