The Negative Effects of Tourism, Anza Borrego Desert SP

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Female Tourist Looking into Desert Pupfish Pond, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California Female Tourist Looking into Desert Pupfish Pond, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, California

I was supposed to meet photographer Ron Niebrugge last week around 11:30 at the Anza Borrego Visitor Center in Borrego Springs. What I didn’t expect was a 30 min cruise around the parking lot just to find a parking space. Once I found the space, I walked down to the visitor center.

Just in front of the visitor center is a shallow pond / interpretive display that provides a habitat for the endangered desert pupfish. Desert pupfish can live in almost any type of water conditions from hot to cold, to saltwater to freshwater but their natural habitats have been diverted from their natural flows in order to irrigate farms and provide drinking water to the public. Anza Borrego there are few places where theses fishes still live. This pond is one of those places.

Well, a guy strolls up to the pond with his dog saying how cool the “tadpoles” look never mind that there was a big sign right next to him indicating that they were fish and not frogs. Given the dry desert climate, his dog starts drinking the water along with the fish! The dog owner thought nothing of it but I was pissed. I didn’t say anything to him and just walked away from the pond shaking my head. There’s no way his dog would know any better but very irresponsible on the owner’s part. Many folks out there to view the spring wildflowers clearly had no interest in nature other than to see a spectacle.

Another telling sign of the amusement park-like atmosphere was that there were 20 – 30 people waiting to use four toilets right at the edge of the parking lot. When I saw the long line near the parking lot, I wondered perhaps if they had shut the restrooms down around the corner at the visitor center. There was only one way to find out… and nope, the restrooms were open just waiting to be discovered.

After lunch, I tried to do the Palm Canyon hike. The rangers wouldn’t let me in because the parking lot had been overfilled all day long. You can also park at the visitor center and get there by walking further but there was an even longer line of cars than what I’d seen at 11 a.m. so I just gave up trying.

I heard that Borrego Springs only gets crowded during the weekends on wildflower season and rather deserted the rest of the year. That is probably a good thing because there wouldn’t be anything left if it was like that every week.

See more of my Southern California desert pictures.


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9 thoughts

  1. Thanks Sherri. i’ve been doing marketing work for the LA Times. i’d probably trade it all in for a normal life and someone special to go home to but you just make do until you find that.

  2. Hi Richard,

    AB is such a cool place, it is unfortunate the weekends were so crazy – I learned to dread them. It is such a small town, and the wildflowers were concentrated in certain areas – that didn’t help much. It is too bad you aren’t able to break away for a quick weekday!

    It was fun to meet you!

    Ron

  3. Totally agreed Ron. As I was driving in for sunrise, it really hit me how awesome of a place that AB is. My previous two trips was just to see flowers just like everyone else, but I realized that it is so much more than that. Nothing says clarity more than 6 a.m.

    if you come back to shoot the OC, we’ll meet up again.

  4. Gary – perhaps you are misunderstanding what I wrote. The parking is what it is, but what I was highlighting is the behavior of people when they don’t have respect for the environment.

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