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Short Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern

BLM Public Land
Short Canyon wildflowers in April – Shelley Ellis

Short Canyon is about 20 minutes northwest of Ridgecrest. From the intersection of US 395 and SR 14 travel north for 1 mile to Leliter Road and turn west to cross US 395. On the west side of the highway follow the Short Canyon signs, and take the graded dirt road to the Power line Road. Then turn south and proceed for 1/2-mile to the intersection with BLM Route SE138. Turn west and follow this graded dirt road all the way to the parking lot and trailhead. The access road is graded and usually passable in a 2-wheel drive vehicle.

The Short Canyon trail is located within the Owens Peak Wilderness and is open to hikers and equestrians throughout the year, although summer is very hot. In years with adequate moisture, Short Canyon has spectacular wildflower displays in March and April! After a wet winter, the canyon explodes with bright yellow coreopsis, orange California poppies, red paintbrush, purple gilias and vivid blue phacelias. More than 290 different species of plants grow within this Eastern Sierra Canyon. Within the span of less than an hour, you can experience three distinct ecotones - the Mojave Desert, Great Basin, and Sierra Nevada - all in an area covering less than 1,200 acres.

The Short Canyon Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) was established in 1988 to interpret, protect, and enhance natural resources. The area has exceptionally diverse flora and fauna, with rich botanical resources that are unusual to the Eastern Sierra. One of the more unusual plants is the nolina (Nolina parryi var. wolfii). Every 7 to 10 years, just the right weather conditions allow the dramatic flowering of the Nolinas (see photo). The inflorescence on some of these plants can be 2 feet wide and up to 5 feet tall! Riparian habitat is also present, with wetlands below the upper spring and cottonwood-willow riparian along the lower part of the trail.

In addition to wildflower viewing, spring is also an excellent time for bird watching when neotropical migrant songbirds make their way up the flanks of the Eastern Sierra. You can also observe birds that nest in the canyon like the cactus wren and loggerhead shrike. Hunting is popular during the upland game bird season which generally starts in October and extends through January (see current CDFG regulations).

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