Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Dwarf Lupine (Lupinus nanus).
Common Monkey Flower and Lupine (Mimulus guttatus and Lupinus sp.). Photo by Mike Taylor.
Rock Creek Road
Forest: Eldorado National Forest
District: Georgetown Ranger District
Description: One of the earliest spring wildflower displays in the area (Central Sierra Foothills) can be found only 5 miles north of Placerville along the southern stretch of Rock Creek Road. The road located above the South Fork of the American River also offers breathtaking views of this major river canyon. The first 5 miles of this 10 mile stretch of county road wind through mostly public land and offer the best canyon views and displays of wildflowers. Plenty of pullouts available for short stops for up-close viewing, but in order to safely turn back you may have to drive 5 miles to the Rock Creek Bridge.
Viewing Information: Most years the display begins in early April with the sky blue racemes of Lupinus albifrons (the only bush-type lupine in the Sierra Region). This display is soon joined by three more native lupines (blue to purple flowers) that in most years grow in profusion along the roadsides and hillside above the road, the taller Lupinus benthamii (spider lupine) and lower growing bicolored and dwarf lupines (L. bicolor and L. nanus). A major eye-catcher is the non-native and somewhat invasive perennial sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius), which has large pink-purple flowers and flowers over a longer season than most of the other colorful species found in the area.
Other species displayed on the rocky hillside include ball-headed gilia (Gilia capitata), Live Forever (Dudleya cymosa), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), mountain pretty face (Tritelia ixioides), grass nuts (Tritelia laxa), common monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), mustang clover (Linanthus montanus), and sulphur pea (Lathyrus sulphureous). The very invasive Mediteranean shrub, Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), is fairly common on the hillside and by early May, this otherwise dispicable species, is quite showy with large yellow flowers covering its slender branches.
Safety First: Locals (from the community of Mosquito 10 miles to the east on this road) use this road occasionally for commuting. You will likely be driving slowly so please be courteous and pull off at one of the many turnouts to allow them to pass.
Directions: From US Highway 50 at the Spring Street traffic light in Placerville turn north of Spring Street (Hwy 49) and drive about a mile through an old residential part of town to Hwy 193 where you turn north (the only option) and drive 3 miles to the Chili Bar Bridge over the South Fork American River. From here continue about a mile to the first road on the right, which will be Rock Creek Road, where the flower tour begins.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Eldorado National Forest, Georgetown Ranger District.
Closest Town: Mosquito, California.