Joshua Tree National Park Evacuates Visitors Amid Severe Flooding

by Jon D. B.

A monsoon’s torrential flooding led to the complete evacuation of all visitors from Joshua Tree National Park‘s southern portion.

As heavy rainfall led to severe flooding on Monday, August 8 in Joshua Tree and surrounding areas, recent catastrophes in other national parks came to mind for many across the U.S. But monsoons are a fact of life the park’s California desert, and part of the ecosystem’s natural cycles.

Regardless, they can be dangerous events, and flooding occurs more often than not. Such was the case for the national park this week as Joshua Tree management moved quickly to close the south boundary road. Severe flooding also led to the closing of a five-mile stretch of Pinto Basin Road between Porcupine Wash and Turkey Flats.

“Park staff have evacuated all visitors from the southern portion of the park,” officials state in the park’s media release. “Road crews will reevaluate the situation tomorrow and will reopen roadways as soon as possible.”

All facilities and roadways in the northern portion of Joshua Tree National Park remain open. This area remains available for visitor use.

As the park cites, monsoon rains often cause flash floods that can quickly turn deadly. Thankfully, no injuries or deaths have been reported during this latest August event. But safety is always paramount in the desert, and it becomes time-sensitive during monsoon season.

Joshua Tree National Park Monsoon Season Safety

Park officials recommend the following for a safe visit during monsoon season, which begins in late summer and ends in September.

  • Turn around and don’t drown during summer storms
  • Always check the weather forecast before entering the park
  • Watch for changing weather and a buildup of clouds
  • Consider changing your plans if adverse weather is expected
  • Have a plan and a map of the park in case you encounter moving water
  • Be familiar with all of the park exits so you know your options
  • Prepare a safety kit for your car and hiking pack, which should include plenty of extra food, water, and warm clothes
  • Leave an itinerary with a friend or family member and check in when you have cell service
  • Do not expect cell service within the park

Remember, dirt roads may close at no notice due to storm damage, so always be prepared. Joshua Tree National Park visitor stations will also offer daily forecasts and expert information, so it’s always best to plan a stop before venturing out.

The park also asks that visitors keep an eye out for tortoises while driving Joshua Tree roads during monsoons or any heavy rainfall. These land-dwelling turtle species come out during monsoons and can be vulnerable on open roads.

For more on park rain and flood event safety, see their NPS breakdown here. Stay safe out there, Outsiders!