Narrated by Russ Christoff
Within a few hours east of San Diego, lies a vast geological wonderland in California's Colorado Desert. The largest state park in the contiguous United States, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park also has the distinction of being California's first desert state park, and the most diverse desert landscape in the world.
Its 600,000 acres and 500 miles of dirt roads make it the perfect getaway for those seeking peace and solitude.
Standing at any number of points in the park today, it's difficult to believe that many millions of years ago, this expansive area contained verdant forests, marshes and wetlands.
My guide, paleontologist and ranger, Paul, took me on a tour to various points of interest.
One of these was a view of the Borrego badlands from Fonts Point, an overlook reached only by four miles of primitive road.
From here a mind-boggling 360 degrees of the Anza- Borrego desert stretches before you.
Layered into this series of washes, lies millions of years of geological and paleontologic history. As we drove through the twisting canyons in another part of the park, I was awestruck by the natural artistry of huge rock formations and caves.
Geology students from all over the world, come to this area to study the walls of this ancient creek bed, which hold the secrets of millions of years of fossilized life forms.
If visitors continue on from here, they'll be treated to a view of "Elephant's Knees," an unusual site near Mudhills Wash.
A one hour hike, from the amphitheater at the Palm Canyon campground, will lead visitors up to the popular palm studded oasis of Borrego Palm Canyon.
Meandering rocky trails will lead hikers through an area inhabited by lush vegetation, and a variety of animals and birds.
Depending on seasonal rainfall, spring months may bring a profusion of wildflowers here and throughout the park.
On this hike, and all others in Anza-Borrego, visitors should carry plenty of drinking water.
Two developed camp grounds can be found within the park, and require reservations in cooler weather between October and May.
Summer is considered off-season for camping at Anza-Borrego, due to deadly temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit and higher.
Always call ahead for conditions.
Don't visit Anza-Borrego State Park without stopping first, at its outstanding Visitor's Center at Borrego Springs.
Built underground to aid in preserving the natural beauty of the surrounding area, the Visitor's Center houses educational interpretive displays and panels.
It also has a superb bookstore and theater. And is rated one of the top ten visitor centers in the United States.
Knowledgeable volunteers are also on-hand to assist in planning your visit. Paul and I discussed the importance of Anza-Borrego to the State Park system.
Ranger Paul: The way I look at it, it's a great out of doors museum. It's larger than all the other state park units in California combined.
I've been here 20 years, I love it, and Im not bored with it at all. It's a great landscape. Look how dynamic it is. You've seen it today.
It's great for geology, learning about the Salton Trough in the Gulf of California evolution.
Paleontological resourses, the best I've ever seen. In fact, the scientific community regards the fossil resources coming out of the Anza-Borrego, including the marine and terrestrial faunas, as the largest repository of Miocene to Quaternary aged fossils in all of North America.
It's one of the main paleontological centers in all of California.