Exploring the Anza-Borrego Desert

Award-Winning Visitor Center

The architectural award winning visitor center is 1.7 miles west of Christmas Circle on Palm Canyon Drive, just past the Anza-Borrego Park Headquarters. It was built in 1979 at a cost of $1 million, largely with the support of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association (ABDNHA), which was created to help fund and build the center. The visitor center was built literally into the desert to conserve energy and to be unobtrusive. Natural vegetation was carefully removed for construction of the center and then replaced, and it is now part of the center's roof and observation viewpoint. The unique design has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects.

Stop at the visitor center to obtain interpretive literature and information about the park and the desert in general. It is open 9 5 daily, except from June through September, when the center is open on Saturdays and Sundays only and is closed July Fourth and Labor Day. The visitor center has excellent slide programs and exhibits on desert geology, plants, and wildlife. Park staff and volunteer naturalists do presentations or lead guided walks and hikes almost daily. School groups, senior centers, scouts, and other nonprofit groups may also call the visitor center to arrange for special presentations. Profit from the sale of merchandise supports ABDSP. The center is operated by the state park with volunteer assistance.

The grounds surrounding the visitor center are planted with typical plant specimens found throughout the park. Check with the visitor center staff for the schedule for guided garden walks.

Several trails radiate from the visitor center. A short loop nature trail, advertised as"five blocks long," is marked by a sign located between the palm tree and the flagpole. Another trail, beginning on the north side of the visitor center parking area, leads approximately one mile north to Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. A third trail, beginning on the southwest side of the parking lot near the lot's exit, leads southwest to join the Hellhole Canyon Trail and the California Riding and Hiking Trail. The wash west of the parking lot is the drainage from Hellhole Canyon. It can also be followed southwest to the mouth of either Flat Cat Canyon or Hellhole Canyon. If hiking to one of these canyons from the visitor center, be sure to look for the visitor center flagpole on the return hike. The structure is not visible from the return hike, an intentional design feature that has been the lament of some returning hikers.

A desert-pupfish pond is next to the palm tree on the north side of the visitor center entrance. The interpretive panel located there attributes the demise of the pupfish in Fish Creek to a flash flood, no doubt the January 1916 flood long associated with rainmaker Charles M. Hatfield. Pupfish are unique fish that have survived since the end of the Pliocene Epoch because of their ability to adapt rapidly to changing conditions, be it extremes in temperatures, high salinity with occasional periods of salt-free water during spring floods, or limited fare.

Park Headquarters

Park headquarters is the administrative center and control point for the park. All ranger patrols are coordinated here by radio transmission. This is a business office. For general information and park orientation, go to the visitor center, not park headquarters.


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