In an ominous preamble to the expected El Nino this year across California, a series of severe thunderstorms passed over Death Valley National Park, knocking down power lines and stranding park rangers and visitors alike in the Ubehebe Crater in the north end of the park.
Feet of mud has been reported at Scotty’s Castle Visitor Center, the exterior of which is surrounded by mud and debris. Roads across the national park were closed and Mesquite Campground was evacuated Sunday night.
California 190 remains open, and Stateline Road / Bell Vista to Pahrump is open, but still has flowing water on the California side and large vehicles may have trouble with this road.
CA 127 is open, but Badwater Road (Highway 178), Scotty’s Castle Road (North Highway, West Side Road, Big Pine-Death Valley Road and Racetrack Road are all closed.
For a current update on road conditions at Death Valley national park, visit the National Park’s Page or Like their Facebook page.
Living in a desert environment is difficult for any species but, one has to imagine, it’s particularly difficult if you’re a fish. Take, for instance, the inch-long iridescent-blue fish that calls a limestone cavern in the floor of the Amargosa Desert it’s home: the Devil’s Hole Pupfish. Here in a spring-fed cavern that’s 426-feet deep and only has a small opening to the outside world the entire population of the Devil’s Hole Pupfish lives out their short, year-long life-spans, as they have for the last 10,000 years.
First granted protection in the 1970s, when the population of Pupfish was more than 500, the pupfish population is now down to 92 members. Over the last forty years the pupfish has suffered a number of population setbacks. A flash flood in 1973 scoured the algae that the fish depend on for both food and breeding from the ledge.
Over the past few weeks there’s been one topic on the minds of Mojave Desert residents: it’s green.
Gentle rainstorms lasting several days have moved slowly across the desert over the past few months, leaving a particular lush carpet of green that is now starting to come up golden, purple, and orange.
The Death Valley Natural History Association has reported excellent conditions in Death Valley, with David Becker, the executive director of the association, suggested that, while “the weather over the next several weeks will be the determining factor, but from what I’m seeing on the ground, this could be the best year we’ve had since the spectacular displays of 2005.”
The season of 2004-2005 (see photo) was an unusually wet one, leading to several ephemeral lakes and spectacular wildflowers that painted the normally stark landscape in shades of yellow and purple.
Should the weather remain mild, with low wind speeds, and regular rain showers, it’s possible that Death Valley could, once again, be blanketed in bright carpets of color.
To keep updated about wildflower conditions you can call the Wildflower Hotline at (760) 767-4684 or like national park’s facebook page.
In a remote corner of Death Valley National park, cradled in between the Cottonwood and Last Chance mountain ranges, Racetrack Playa presents an intriguing natural history mystery. Here, slabs of dolomite and syenite, ranging in size from a couple of pounds up to 1,000 pounds, leave visible tracks as they slide across the playa surface, without any sign of human or animal intervention. For decades visitors and scientists alike have puzzled over what natural forces cause the stones to move across the playa.
Theories have ranged from the plausible (Death Valley National Park’s website has for years suggested that rain will wet the playa providing a slippery surface across which very strong winds may skid the stones across the slick mud) to the supernatural (strange magnetic forces or psychic energy as the culprit behind the sailing stones mysterious behavior). Unfortunately, as the stones had never been seen moving, the mystery had remained just that. Until now.
In a paper published with the scientific Journal Plos One, researchers Richard D. Norris and James M. Norris have provided photographic and scientific evidence as to how the stones manage to sail in their erratic patterns across the smooth playa surface.