LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Businesses in Beatty, Nevada, will be waiting about six more weeks until road crews can partially open the road to Death Valley National Park — the lifeblood of the town’s economy.
For some, that will bring a sigh of relief after initial reports from the park indicated it could take as long as eight months after a heavy storm washed out roads in the park on Aug. 5.
Abby Wines, a spokeswoman for Death Valley National Park, said members of the Beatty Town Board and the Beatty Chamber of Commerce toured the damage to the road on Friday. The initial eight-month estimate was for the completion of repairs, she said.
An interim solution is expected to partially reopen Daylight Pass Road and the Beatty Cutoff within the park — possibly by mid-October — by allowing one-way traffic managed by flaggers as repairs continue. Portions of the road will be gravel while repairs continue.
Wines said the mid-October timeframe is a best guess, and that contractors for the project only arrived in Death Valley today.
“That’d be great,” said Jim Henderson, casino manager at the Stagecoach Hotel & Casino in Beatty. He is one of many people in the business community who had only heard the eight-month timeframe. “We are absolutely dead. I think we have three people in here right now.” He said construction on U.S. 95 was already killing traffic through town.
Ana Gonzalez, manager of the Death Valley Inn & RV Park, said on Friday, “The impact on business has been crazy. We rely on tourism.”
Beatty is a town of fewer than 1,000 people located on U.S. 95 about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas. There’s a single casino — the Stagecoach — and several motels that cater to Death Valley visitors coming from Las Vegas. Almost everyone who comes through town stops at the Death Valley Nut & Candy Co. at Eddie World.
A record 1,740,945 people visited Death Valley in 2019, according to the National Park Service.
Storms are forecast for Death Valley this weekend, continuing through Tuesday, according to the park’s website.
When the National Park began to rebuild after the storm, it began posting updates as sections of California SR 190 reopened. But no timeline had been released on how long it might take to reopen various roads.
“Given that there’s 1,400 miles of roads in the park … I think we’re doing pretty well,” Wines said.
Abby Delee, who works at the Death Valley Inn, said most people are keeping their reservations and finding their way to the park on a road that runs through Amargosa Valley. She said the inn’s business is down by about a quarter, and welcomed the news that the road would reopen sooner. “I’m happy to hear that,” she said.
Access to the Rhyolite ghost town near Beatty is still open, but backcountry roads into Death Valley National Park — including the Titus Canyon road — are closed. “All backcountry roads have areas of moderate to severe damage. Some areas are impassable and many roads have not yet been assessed. Travel not recommended,” according to the park’s website.
Henderson said any access to the park will help. People who rent RVs are already advised not to take the road from Beatty into the park because it’s a 7% grade.
Until the road reopens, visitors can get to the park using Death Valley Junction Road, which takes off south from U.S. 95 near the Amargosa Valley Rest Area and the Area 51 Alien Center. That crosses into California and connects to SR 190. Visitors can get to SR 190 from Pahrump using Bob Ruud Memorial Highway. Access from the west is open on SR 190, which connects to U.S. 395 between Bishop and Ridgecrest.
SR 190 runs through the heart of Death Valley, offering access to attractions including Zabriskie Point and Furnace Creek. Dante’s View Road is open and Badwater Road is partially open.
The park is still restoring Scotty’s Castle after a flood that damaged the area in 2015.