The Carrizo Plain
San Luis Obispo County

April 28-29, 2001

The Carrizo Plain, typically dusty and dry during most of the year, comes alive during wet
springtimes. Verdant hills are splashed with highlights of purple, yellow, orange, and blue
wildflowers in good years. This treeless plain is alive with the song of the meadowlark and
presence of the San Joaquin kit fox, Tule elk, pronghorn antelope, raptors, and an abundance of
rattlesnakes! There are plenty of roads (some dirt roads need 4x4) to explore and trails to hike.

The southern entrance to the Carrizo Plain (Soda Lake Road, off of Hwy 166/33). The linear,
salt-rimmed lake (or more appropriately "sag pond") indicates the location of California's
premier fault, the San Andreas. Sag ponds commonly appear above fault lines where groundwater
has filtered through to the surface along the rift created by the two opposing blocks of earth
material (more specifically, the boundary between the North American plate, on the right of the
pond, and the Pacific plate, to the left of the pond). The saddle in the hills (following the line
created along the sag pond) further indicates the location of the San Andreas Fault. The Carrizo
Plain is an incredible spring wildflower display area. Though certainly modified by human
activity, this area is one of California's few remaining plains where one can glimpse what our
native grasslands were like prior to conversion to agriculture and development.

Thistle Sage (Salvia carduacea)


Southern end of the Carrizo Plain. Field of purple owl's clover (Castilleja exserta).

Recurved (Valley) Larkspur (Delphinium recurvatum)
Common to the alkali sink/saltbush scrub area near Soda Lake.


Revised: June 14, 2002

This site ©2002 Ann Dittmer.