Big Bear is home to more than 20 endemic wildflowers not seen anywhere else in the world. This spring visitors have an opportunity to see these rare flowers up close at the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve with guided wildflower hikes led by a botanist and volunteers of the Southern California Mountains Foundation
The Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve is east of Big Bear Lake in an open plain covered by small quartz rocks, known as pebbles, with low-growing, tufted plants rooted in the crevices. Research shows the area was once a glacier lake during the Pleistocene era 10,000 years ago, which formed the clay soil of the pebble plains. With a combination of unique soils, thousands of years of the swelling and shrinking of the soils, annual freezing conditions in the winter and isolation from other similar areas has created various floral species found nowhere else on planet Earth. In fact, the Baldwin Lake pebble plains area is so unique that it has been compared to coral reefs with more than 20 species in a square mile.
Wildflowers such as Cushenberry Buckwheat, Douglas' Violets, Big Bear Valley Phlox, Ash Grey Paintbrush, Parish's Daisies, and Bear Valley Sandwort can be seen in the pebble plains. Most pebble plain species are only one-inch high, best known as "belly flowers," because these plants are best appreciated close-up while lying flat on ones belly. The pin-cushion blooms create a landscape with shades of yellow, purple and red. As the season progresses new waves of flowers will bloom. The best time to visit and enjoy the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve is during April and early May when wildflowers are blooming and the temperature is relatively cool.
Visitors can either take a free guided hike with the Southern California Mountains Foundation on Saturdays at1pm and 2 p.m. and on Sundays at 11a.m. or 12 p.m., or take the self-guided interpretive trail that starts at the Baldwin Lake Ecological Reserve Visitor Center. The half-mile trail is a loop that has 11 marked posts that point out key facts about the pebble plains and the rare wildflowers that grace the unique terrain.
The Reserve can be accessed by driving east of Big Bear Lake on Highway 18. Look for roadside signage that marks the entrance. Good footwear is recommended. Parking and restrooms are available.
About the Southern California Mountains Foundation:
The Southern California Mountains Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that (1) supports youth development through conservation initiatives integrating environmental education, training and hands-on service projects; (2) protects our natural resources through adult and family-led programming; and (3) provides interpretive services that focus on outdoor recreation, responsible use, and stewardship of our natural environment. The Mountains Foundation achieves its mission by raising money, organizing critical volunteer resources, and creating and managing programs focused on health, stewardship and sustainability of our Southern California mountains and urban "forests". Visit www.MountainsFoundation.org