Butte County sees best wildflower season in years — many regional groups offering guided walks | TheUnion.com

Butte County sees best wildflower season in years — many regional groups offering guided walks

Spring has sprung and a series of winter storms means an abundant display of wildflowers this season.

At Table Mountain in Butte County near the town of Oroville, wildflower bloom is significantly better than the last few years, said Scientific Aide George Gilmore who has led wildflower tours at North Table Mountain Ecological Preserve for California State Department Fish and Wildlife for years and says he's hiked just about everywhere.

"The 2016 El Niño rain patterns have created good conditions for wildflowers," Gilmore said.

Well-spaced rains that saturate the ground combined with warm temperatures in-between have created ideal conditions for flowers.

“Wildflowers at Table Mountain tend to be arranged in patterns or mosaics and this has everything to do with the geology of the place. We see swaths of color — greens, blues and yellows.”George GilmoreScientific aide

While it's difficult to predict, Gilmore says flowers will probably continue through the end of April.

"Each flower species has is bloom time so it's similar to a 'parade' with some species appearing early and others late," Gilmore said.

Table Mountain is known for its geology and scenery.

Hundreds flock to the area every year to see the flowers (some argue the best in the state), the waterfalls, and to picnic and fly kites. When the lava flows that formed Table Mountain cooled they created a patchwork of microhabitats for flowers have sorted themselves out or competed for habitat where that species could thrive. 

"As the lava cooled, it fractured, creating a sponge for water. During the winter rain season the water saturates the rock and it begins flowing creating beautiful waterfalls. Wildflowers at Table Mountain tend to be arranged in patterns or mosaics and this has everything to do with the geology of the place. We see swaths of color — greens, blues and yellows," said Gilmore.

A little closer to home, the wildflower show at Buttermilk Bend Trail at South Yuba River State Park at Bridgeport is the best it's been in five years.

"Buttermilk Bend is a world class walk, not only due to its varied and abundant wildflowers, but because the trail runs above the spectacular South Yuba River.  The wildflowers bloom in succession, with different flower displays in early, mid, and late season," said Cheryl Pirtle, co-coordinator of the Buttermilk Bend Wildflower Walk program at the park.

Three out of the first six walks were canceled due to the rain, but visitors have been returning with the sun.

"There is a great profusion of Tufted Poppies and Zigzag Larkspur, Miniature Lupine, Bowl Tubed Iris and Fiddlenecks. Fairy Lanterns and our larger signature Lupine, the Narrow Leaf Lupine are ready to bloom. Flowers have already been spotted on  the native succulent  plant known as the Canyon Dudlea, and after the halfway mark at French Corral creek, a great abundance of Bird's Eye Gillia are covering the uphill side of the trail," said Docent Ruthanne Peterson.

About 20 "wildflower geeks" act as docents, leading walks at the park every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m.

The peak season is expected to last several more weeks and into early May. Hikes on 2.6 mile-Point Defiance Loop Trail are also offered on Tuesdays. Call the park for more details.

Here's a lineup of guided wildflower walks through the season:

Fish and Wildlife will offer tours in March and April on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Each tour features a two and half mile hike over uneven terrain. Dogs are not allowed. Online registration is required at: http://www.wildlife.ca.gov/regions/2/wildflower-tours.

A Wildflower and Nature Festival will be held at Riverbend Park in Oroville on April 2 with children's activities, cooking demonstrations, food and music. Contact Feather River Recreation and Park District at (530) 533-2011 for more information.

State Park docents will lead guided two-hour Wildflower Walks on the Buttermilk Bend Trail (2.5 mile round trip) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Mother's Day, May 8. Meet at the trail head in the north parking lot. Sturdy walking shoes are recommended along with a hat, sunscreen, and remember to bring water. A $3 donation is requested. For more information about guided tours at South Yuba River State Park, Bridgeport: (530) 432-2546, or go to http://www.southyubariverstatepark.org.    

Bear Yuba Land Trust will lead two outings at Table Mountain – Wildflowers and Photos from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 5 and Five Waterfalls from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 10. Learn more and register at: http://www.bylt.org.

Redbud Chapter of California Native Plant Society will lead a series of free wildflower walks this spring:

Trees, Shrubs, and Wildflowers Walk to Illinois Crossing: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 10

Foresthill Divide Loop/ Overlook Spur, Middle Fork American River in Placer County: 9 a.m. to noon April 23

Mother's Day Wildflower Walk: South Yuba Trail near the town of Washington: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 8

Learn more at: http://www.redbud-cnps.org/trips.htm Click on "field trips."

Contact Freelance Writer Laura Petersen at laurapetersen310@gmail.com or 530-913-3067.