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Anza-Borrego Desert State Park/USA

Introducing Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Shaped by an ancient sea and tectonic forces, enormous and little-developed Anza-Borrego covers 640,000 acres, making it the largest state park in the USA outside Alaska. Human history here goes back more than 10,000 years, as recorded by Native American pictographs and petroglyphs. The park is named for Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza, who arrived in 1774, pioneering a colonial trail from Mexico and no doubt running into countless borregos, the wild peninsular bighorn sheep that once ranged as far south as Baja California. (Today only a few hundred of these animals survive, having been endangered by drought, disease, poaching and off-highway driving.) In the 1850s Anza-Borrego became a stop along the Butterfield stagecoach line, which delivered mail between St Louis and San Francisco.

Winter and spring are the high seasons here. Depending on winter rains, wildflowers bloom brilliantly, albeit briefly, starting in late February, making a striking contrast to the subtle earth tones of the desert. Summers are extremely hot; the daily average temperature in July is 107°F (41°C), but it can reach 125°F (51°C).