LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Death Valley National Park remained closed Wednesday, releasing photos of devastated roadways at day’s end.
The park is expected to reopen in stages, but it may be weeks before Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells open, according to a National Park Service (NPS) news release. Photos showed collapsed roads, pools of floodwaters, undercut roadways and debris completely covering one road.
NPS and Caltrans road crews opened an exit lane on CA-190 late Monday, allowing 400 residents, employees, and travelers to leave the park after sheltering in place for about 24 hours.
All paved and unpaved roads in Death Valley have been damaged and are closed. A map on the park’s website hammers home the point, with every road colored red for “closed.”
Four utility systems were compromised by flash flooding. Water and wastewater pipes were damaged and a well was impacted. “The full extent of the damage across the park will not be known for a period of weeks, as roads make overland travel challenging in order for park crews to identify additional storm damage impacts, however aerial surveys indicated extensive parkwide flooding impacts,” according to the news release.
The damage erased work done since flooding a year ago that took months — and was still incomplete when the remnants of Hurricane Hilary hit on Sunday. A year’s worth of rain fell in one day.
“The National Weather Service rain gauge at Furnace Creek measured 2.2 inches of rain on Aug. 20, 2023. This exceeds the park’s annual average rainfall of 2.15 inches. This set a new single-day rainfall record for Death Valley, breaking the previous record of 1.70 inches set on Aug. 5, 2022. The National Weather Service radar indicates some parts of the park may have received around 5 inches of rain that day,” according to Wednesday’s news release.
“Last year, roads were heavily impacted, damaged, or closed following record rainfall in August; the current storm broke last year’s record. Although all paved roads were repaired from the 2022 flood damage, there is still a lot of work to be done in the backcountry and this latest storm caused significant additional damage,” the park said.
“Safety is the most important thing coming out of this storm,” Superintendent Mike Reynolds said. “Making sure crews can work safely and efficiently without interruptions from visitor traffic will help us achieve that. We ask the public for patience and to honor the closures so we can do the work needed to get Death Valley open as quickly as possible and safe for everyone to visit.”
Notes on the park’s website indicate details in addition to the news release:
- Salt Creek Road: Flooding destroyed the boardwalk, toilet and parking area. No timeline for reopening.
- Titus Canyon Road: Flooding destroyed the road.
- Steel Pass: Extensive flood damage. No timeline for reopening.
- Grotto Canyon: Partially open. Road open to where it drops from alluvial fan into the wash (about one mile before the normal trailhead.)
- Darwin Falls Trail: Washed out and no longer exists. Expect to hike through shallow water and scramble over rocks.
Major roads outside the park are also listed as closed including Death Valley – Big Pine Road in Inyo County and Trona Wildrose & Panamint Valley Road in Inyo County.