Storm Closes Roads Throughout Death Valley

Flash flood washes out Trona-Wildrose Road in the Panamint Valley | Photo: National Park Service

A major summer rainstorm hit Death Valley National Park and surrounding areas Sunday, closing a number of major roads --- including the park's south entrance near Shoshone.

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This seems like a good time to remind desert travelers to be aware of the weather in the region. Stay out of canyons if there are storm clouds upstream, and never attempt to cross a section of road that's covered with a flash flood: you don't know whether the waters may conceal a six-foot-deep washout.

Rainfall totals for the National Park are unavailable aside from the record for the Park Headquarters at Furnace Creek, which received only a trace of rain according to Terry Baldino, the Park's Acting Public Affairs Officer. The Park hasn't been able to monitor its rain gauges at Scotty's Castle, which is closed for repairs, or at Stovepipe Wells, due to staff vacancies related in part to the sequester.

But away from Furnace Creek there was clearly a lot of rain, because some of the park's roads have gone missing. The park is essentially sealed off from the south: Both Badwater Road south of the famous Basin and Trona-Wildrose Road in the Panamint Valley have been closed due to washouts, meaning that visitors approaching the Park from the south must plan on significant detours.

Baldino says that about a 100-yard stretch of the Badwater Road was completely destroyed. "It's one of the older roads in the Park. There wasn't a lot of asphalt there." Additional stretches have been inundated with debris, necessitating emergency cleanup and appeals to the Park Service for any available emergency funds.

Accoording to the Park's Morning Report for Monday, road closures and warnings in effect throughout the park include:

  • Badwater Road between Badwater Basin and the south entrance.
  • Big Pine/Death Valley Road.
  • Cottonwood Canyon Road.
  • Emigrant Canyon Road.
  • Harry Wade Road.
  • Mosaic Canyon Road (Washed out; 4x4 High Clearance Recommended)
  • Mustard Canyon Road
  • Panamint Valley Road
  • Saline Valley (North) Impassable. Severely washed out.
  • Saline Valley (South) Signed "Closed" by Inyo County; damaged due to washouts; very rough. (Saline Valley South is often braved by people with high clearance vehicles despite the county "closed" sign: this week, you may want to rethink that tradition.)
  • Wildrose Road
  • West Side Road
You can keep tabs on closures in Death Valley by visiting the Park's road closures Facebook page.


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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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