Great naturalist John Muir wrote in his memoirs: “Go where I would, east or west, north or south, I still plashed and rippled in flower-gems”. In 1868 he was privileged to see something that we won’t see anymore – the endless sea (400 miles long and 30 miles wide) of spring flowers of Central Valley in California. Nowadays nearly all of this unique grandeur is gone, meadows have been replaced by pastures, roads, and buildings.

The unfamiliar Californian grandeur

Most Californians and guests strive to visit Yosemite National Park, redwoods, Sonoran desert and other great natural attractions – there is plenty of choice. But there is one natural attraction which is often overlooked – Carrizo Plain.

To say “overlooked” is not entirely correct – plain has been studied extensively by scientists due to its unique geology and biology. But the beauty of this unusual plain is not exactly as touristy as the overwhelming greatness of Yosemite Valley.

Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in moonlight, California
Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in moonlight / Bill Bouton, / CC BY-SA 2.0

For the most part of the year enormous treeless plains around the unusual Soda Lake might seem somewhat monotonous and deserted. But it is not a desert – this vast area is the largest remaining natural grassland in California, the last remnant of the arid grasslands once covering the San Joaquin Valley. The unusual landscape is supplemented by San Andreas Fault – nowhere else this giant scar is expressed that well.

Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in springtime, California
Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in springtime / devra, / CC BY 2.0

If the weather during the winter has been favourable, in March – May the desolate plain is changing. Millions of bright flowers color the endless meadows. Walk between these two seemingly endless planes – the sky above and the bright carpet of flowers below – seems like being in another reality. (But stay in touch with the real world – beware of rattlesnakes, especially later, starting from late March!)

There are several species of wildflowers creating this grandeur: California goldfield (Lasthenia californica DC. ex Lindl.), lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia Benth.), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica Cham.), tidy tips (Layia platyglossa ( Fisch. & C.A.Mey.) A.Gray) and numerous other species.

Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in California
Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows / Wikimedia Commons, user Antandrus, public domain

Biological richness of the Carrizo Plain is well illustrated by such find as diamond-petaled California poppy (Eschscholzia rhombipetala Greene). This small poppy was thought to be extinct until a happy discovery of this plant in the northern part of Carrizo Plain in 1992. There are numerous other rare and endemic plants in the plain and new finds are highly possible.

Carrizo Plain is declared a National Monument in 2001 but is continuously endangered by attempts to get the control over the land in order to begin a search of oil.

Thse meadows are included in the following list:

Top 10 locations of California poppy meadows and fields
Top 10 locations of California poppy meadows and fields


  1. Wildflowers and Sightseeing. Carrizo Plain National Monument, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. Accessed on February 25, 2010

Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows on the map

Travelers' Map is loading...
If you see this after your page is loaded completely, leafletJS files are missing.
Location, GPS coordinates:35.073229 N 119.65109 W
Rating:3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
Where is located?North America, United States, California, San Luis Obispo County, 170 km north-west from Los Angeles, 20 km south-west from Taft, several parts of Carrizo Plain, including south-eastern part
Alternate name:“California’s Serengeti”
Area:1,012 km2
Dominating species:Diverse, including goldfields (Lasthenia californica DC. ex Lindl.), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.) and numerous others.

Video of Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows

Ben Chu, April 2017

Landmarks of California

Golden Gate Bridge, California
Golden Gate Bridge / David Ohmer, / CC BY 2.0

Although California is one of states in the United States of America, Americans often compare it to a separate country, e.g. “if California would be a country, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world”. We can go on with this comparison – California has more landmarks and attractions than many large countries of the world.


This is not alien planet. Group of Dragon's Blood Trees in Socotra
This is not alien planet. Group of Dragon’s Blood Trees in Socotra. (possibly taken outside Rokeb di Firmihin) / Rod Waddington, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Biotope is rather small area with uniform environmental conditions and specific community of life. Wondermondo describes biotopes and ecosystems which have striking looks, look very beautiful or have other unusual characteristics.

Recommended books

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Another Place and Time: Voices from the Carrisa Plains

In the early- and mid-twentieth century the Carrisa Plains was a thriving agricultural community in central California. Today it holds only relics of this past: abandoned machinery, empty corrals, decaying homesteads, and a scattering of retired farmers and ranchers.

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