Joshua Tree National Park Reopens Roadways After Historic Flooding

by Emily Morgan

Joshua Tree National Park officials have reopened roads on the south side of the park that were previously closed due to flash flooding in the area.

The park’s south entrance and the Pinto and Cottonwood Canyon roads reopened on Tuesday. In addition, it’s expected that the Cottonwood Visitor Center will reopen on Wednesday, per reports from the National Park Service.

Officials had to evacuate visitors out of the southern portion of the expansive desert park on Monday when raging thunderstorms triggered the intense flooding.

Previous flooding extensively damaged roads in Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve. According to park service officials, highway 190, a significant route into Death Valley, will reopen no earlier than Aug. 17.

As heavy showers led to catastrophic flooding on Aug. 8 in Joshua Tree and surrounding areas, similar flooding also ravaged fellow national parks across the U.S. However, sadly, monsoons aren’t an “if” but a “when” in many national parks.

Regardless, monsoons can be a dangerous event for the uninitiated, and it’s essential to be prepared should you find yourself caught in one.

Strategies to stay safe in a monsoon

National Park officials recommend various tips and tricks to stay safe during monsoon season, which kicks off in late summer and ends in September. They suggest looking at the weather forecast before heading into the park. In addition, always watch for changing weather and cloud buildup.

Also, consider changing your plans if you’re met with unexpected, adverse weather. If you find yourself face-to-face with moving water, have an exit strategy and be familiar with exit points in the park. Before entering, get together various supplies such as extra water, food, and proper clothes. Moreover, let your friends and family know where you’ll be.

It’s also pertinent to remember that dirt roads may close at no notice due to storm damage, so be ready for anything. The park’s visitor stations typically offer daily forecasts and expert information, so it’s always a good idea to check in there before hitting the trails.

In a similar national park, Death Valley roads remain closed this week after the park received 1.46 inches of rain on Friday. This heavy rainfall was about 77% of the park’s average annual rainfall. As a result, it trapped 1,000 people inside the park, unable to get to their cars.

In addition, debris from the flooding buried about 60 vehicles. Visitors began their departure from the park on Saturday with law enforcement escorts.

In response to the incident, the park’s superintendent, Mike Reynolds, stated: “Death Valley is an incredible place of extremes.”

“It is the hottest place in the world, and the driest place in North America,” he said. “This week’s 1,000 year flood is another example of this extreme environment. With climate change models predicting more frequent and more intense storms, this is a place where you can see climate change in action!”