Death Valley National Park Reopens Backcountry Roads Following Flash Floods

by Amy Myers
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

From late August to early September, Death Valley National Park experienced detrimental flash flooding that led to major closures.

Since the raging waters have swept through the land, the national park has been slowly and carefully reopening different portions as they see fit. As of November 9, Death Valley has added Hole in the Wall Road and Echo Canyon Road to the list of reopenings.

According to the park’s official release, road crews have been able to re-establish these backcountry roads even after the floods all but demolished them. In order to camp along these roads, though, visitors will need to acquire a free permit through Death Valley National Park. The goal of these permits is to regulate human activity on these fragile grounds.

“Roadside camping along these routes has increased greatly over the past decade. When campsites were full, people drove off road to create new sites,” the park informed. “By limiting camping to designated sites, the NPS hopes that campers will be able to experience the solitude and quiet of the surrounding wilderness. Limiting the number and location of campsites will also reduce human impacts on the desert.”

Death Valley National Park Explains Significance of New Free Permits

In addition to more closely monitoring the number of campers, Death Valley National Park explained that permits also allow park rangers to “communicate with campers about Leave No Trace ethics, NPS regulations and other ways users can help protect the environment.”

Should they need to implement any limitations, the data from the permits will help them determine just how many people can use the backcountry area before it affects the environment.

Another vital purpose that these permits serve has to do with search-and-rescue efforts. According to Death Valley National Park, backpacking and roadside camping permits are not a requirement in any other region. By using them in the Hole in the Wall Road and Echo Canyon areas, rangers will more easily and quickly be able to find any campers in distress or in need of immediate medical assistance.

As for the rest of the national park, Death Valley assured that lodges and campgrounds are all open. There are quite a few roads that will remain closed until crews can finish repairs from the flash floods.

In the meantime, visitors can enjoy the rarely-seen resident of Death Valley that was a direct result of the historic rainfall – Podaxis pistillaris (otherwise known as the desert shaggy mane).

The puffball mushroom thrives in arid desert regions and tend to only show face after a significant rainstorm.

“Its bulbous, oval shaped spore-filled cap splits and falls off after reaching maturity. The spore dust is then released and dispersed by winds. Since the most recent historic summer rainstorms and flash flooding, there’s a possibility of more desert shaggy mane making appearances in the dried mud cracks of Death Valley this Fall,” the park shared on Facebook.