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Big State, Big Park, Big Sheep
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California is the largest state park in California. The park is located on the eastern side of San Diego County, with portions extending east into Imperial County and north into Riverside County. It is about a two-hour drive from San Diego, Riverside and Palm Springs. The park is named after Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word borrego, or Bighorn Sheep.
500 miles (804 km) of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and miles of hiking trails provide visitors with an opportunity to experience the wonders of the Colorado Desert. The park features washes, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti, ocotillo and sweeping vistas. Visitors may also have the chance to see greater roadrunner, golden eagles, kit foxes, mule deer and bighorn sheep as well as iguanas, chuckwallas and the red diamond rattlesnake. Listening devices for the hearing impaired are available in the visitor center.
Most visitors approach from the east via California Highways S22, S2, or 78. Visitors from San Diego via Highways 79 and 78 have the added pleasure of driving through the mountainous Cuyamaca Rancho State Park... quite a different experience from Anza-Borrego. The highways from the east climb to 2,400 feet (731 m) or so and then descend about 2,000 feet (609 m) to the valley. Where the highway breaks out of the high-country vegetation, it reveals the great bowl of the Anza-Borrego desert. The valley spreads below, and there are mountains all around. The highest are to the north... the Santa Rosa Mountains. The mountains are a wilderness, with no paved roads in or out or through. They have the only all-year-flowing watercourse in the park. They are the home of the peninsular bighorn sheep, often called the Desert Bighorn. Few park visitors ever see them; the sheep are justly wary. A patient few observers each year see and count them, to learn how this endangered species is coping with human encroachment.
There are 500 miles of off-road trails in the state park, and 110 miles of bike and hiking trails.
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