View Full Version : Death Valley flash flood

27-Oct-2015, 10:33
Sad News.

Scotty's Castle ruined after 3 inches of rain fell in a 5 hour period, apparently, a 1,000 year rainfall event for the area. Largest flood event ever recorded in Scotty's Castle area. Devils Hole flooded disturbing the endangered pupfish, power lines and water were demolished. Visitors trapped overnight, access roads damaged, tours cancelled...



27-Oct-2015, 10:51
I was hoping to spend some time there in February -- we'll see what roads are open by then. I'd prefer to come in from the north (via Eureka Valley), but that may not be possible.

Randy Moe
27-Oct-2015, 11:30
Maybe I don't get the big picture, but why restore Death Valley which was affected by natural events.

Drew Wiley
27-Oct-2015, 11:57
Well, a number of people died in the last big flash flood down there maybe a dozen years ago; so take that into account. I drove down there while there was still a thirty-mile long lake in the Valley and green hills everywhere, the second time in my lifetime. Pupfish have been through it innumerable times over the centuries. They seem remarkably adapted to fluctuations in sediment and salinity. But the Devil's Hole ones were an isolated single species and already severely endangered. We'll just have to wait and see. The road in from the north can be a real doozey with washouts. I know from experience. Not a good idea after an event like this. Randy - flashfloods affect much of the Southwest. Roads need to get repaired. Death Valley itself is National Park with a great many visitors every winter. The dirt tracks further in can take years to grade. But one simply can't hike in those distances. For example, Saline Valley is just as spectacular as Death Valley itself, but accessible only by dirt road and no place to get isolated. And I do emphasize the word distance. There's a reason they named it "death" valley. Not many convenience markets or cold beers and sodas back when wagon trains got bogged down on that crossing. There are significant parts of the
overall Park classified as official wilderness; but the sheer ruggedness of most of the area inherently protects it. I've been to some utterly incredible parts of it
when I was young, which literally defy any kind of color film.

Randy Moe
27-Oct-2015, 17:16
Drew, you are correct. There is a useful infrastructure. I have been there twice and did not hike. i knew better.

When I was there, they were actually testing cars in the heat, running the Hell out of them, then stopping and examining them under privacy tents.

27-Oct-2015, 17:57
Wow! It should have been a great place to shoot during the storms and aftermath. What an opportunity.

Drew Wiley
28-Oct-2015, 08:54
The inherent problem is that there are really only two main road, and east/west one running from Nevada straight across Death Valley past Stovepipe Wells etc,
then over the top to Panamint Valley. It's got only minor risk issues. But the other main paved road runs the length of Death Valley and thereby past a lot of side
canyons which are normally totally dry but can flashflood catastrophically. No mere culvert will survive the tons of boulders and clay muck which can suddenly
descend. It's just a matter of time. And a lot of snowbird types travel that highway to stay at Furnace Creek, a true oasis, but now way overdeveloped for my taste. This last flood cycle was apparently a spin-off of hurricane activity in Mexico. SW flash flood season typically extends thru Oct then subsides by Nov. What
intrigues me is if El Nino (allegedly on its way) will bring enough Dec rain to trigger another highly memorable Death Valley bloom next Spring.

Jim Noel
28-Oct-2015, 10:57
I went to DV for 10 days to 2 weeks every December/January for 25 years. I was there a week after the last big flash flood when a mother and son ignored the warning and were drowned. their car washed about a mile in the flood.
By the time we got there all paved roads were open. they do a great job of clearing because flash floods happen so often, just not usually such large ones. I have been there when the main north south road was closed at both ends for nearly a week because of floods and continuing rain.
DV is a beautiful place and easy to enjoy if one uses common sense and checks the local weather predictions every morning.

Drew Wiley
28-Oct-2015, 12:12
There are roads which washed out fifty years ago and have never been reopened, but still have "temporary" closure signs at the junction! As usual, whenever
planning to wander off a paved highway, check with local first. For instance, if you're planning to head into Saline Valley from the north, first stop at the Ranger
Station in Lone Pine and carry a minimum of two weeks of food and water. Yep. You can get trapped in there pretty darn easy. From the south, check at Stovepipe Wells. The smaller paved roads up to Wildrose are generally open but can be affected by snowfall; but the dirt sides roads can sometimes get problematical for ordinary passenger cars. On the other side of Death Valley, the road to Dante's View is generally fine, but does wash out from time to time. The numerous jeep tracks hither and thither should generally only be traveled in convoy, in case one vehicle breaks down, and with ample emergency planning. They're still looking for bones of various people who got stuck out there somewhere and died of thirst trying to walk back. Backcountry hiking can be very demanding too, and very hot and dry. If in doubt try some of the more popular trails, but start early before the predictable crowds. Some of those places can
be confined right where you want to prop up your tripod, and you don't want to have people using it as a handrail !

Andrew O'Neill
30-Oct-2015, 11:51
They're still looking for bones of various people who got stuck out there somewhere and died of thirst trying to walk back.

Could that be the Germans? I thought some of their remains were found.

Drew Wiley
30-Oct-2015, 12:40
There are any number of people who have never been found. And then there are those rumors that the Manson family might have done a few in, way back when.
Desert is desert because it's dry. And being one of the hottest places on earth, where even your shoe soles will melt on pavement in summer, Death Valley is not
the smartest place to get lost or broken down on some back road.

28-Nov-2015, 16:37
Latest report shows still a lot of closed roads though rumors on a sleepy locals discussion forum seems to be that many roads will be open by late winter.

Death Valley National Park Morning Report : Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Current Road Conditions

Badwater Road.................Open to Badwater; CLOSED beyond first 17 miles.
Big Pine Road...................CLOSED from Ubehebe to Eureka Valley; Open from Big Pine to S. Eureka Rd.
Cottonwood Canyon Rd....Open first 8 milestohigh-clearance vehicles; 4x4 needed into Marble Canyon; upper Cottonwood washed out.
Greenwater Valley Road...CLOSED by Inyo Countyduring road repair.
Harry Wade Road............CLOSED due to flood damage.
Lower Wildrose Road........CLOSED to through traffic from Wildrose to Panamint Valley due to flood damage.
Mesquite Springs Road.....CLOSED
Scotty’s Castle...................CLOSED due to flood damage
Saline Valley North............CLOSED By Inyo County.
Saratoga Springs road......CLOSED due to flood damage.
20 Mule Team Canyon......CLOSED due to flood damage.
West Side Road................CLOSED due to flood damage

I'm also expecting to make a trip out to Death Valley sometime mid February through March dependent on whether El Nino comes through and greens up landscapes. Last visit was the big bloom of 2005. Recently extensively analyzed topos and Google Earth over the huge park and found several interesting obscure features that have likely never seen tripods and require serious hiking. During my 2005 visit talked at length with one VC ranger about backcountry visitors and found out they receive very very few requests for visits away from roads, 4wd routes, mining relics, and established trails. Thus much like other Southwest desert parks there really are vast areas people in this modern era much less photographers have ever walked. Simply put real desert scares people and he had a good chuckle listening to some of the places I'd rambled about during my short couple weeks.

Sirius Glass
28-Nov-2015, 16:43
After the El Nino Spring in Death Valley should be really great for photography using a lifted ruggedized four wheel drive vehicle if the roads are open.

28-Nov-2015, 17:48
I took the road in from Eureka Valley last January. I managed to bust a shock mount on an unexpected wash about 10 miles from the north pass. It was nothing but washboard then. I can only imagine what it is like now.