WATCH: Death Valley National Park Experiences ‘Desert Tsunami’ Triggered by Earthquake 1,500 Miles Away

by Shelby Scott
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Death Valley National Park is one of the hottest, driest places on the planet, however, one region of the park is partially filled with water and that’s Devil’s Hole, a cavern cut into the side of a hill and measuring more than 500 feet in depth. Recently, Death Valley made headlines after seeing historic flooding so significant, waterfalls began forming across the park. Now though, the California landmark is making headlines as a major earthquake 1,500 miles away triggered a “desert tsunami” in the park’s iconic Devil’s Hole. See footage of the mesmerizing scene below.

According to The State, the earthquake which triggered the desert tsunami in the clip above measured an impressive 7.6 on the Richter Scale and took place in Mexico, near the Colima-Michoacan border. Shaking in Death Valley’s Devil Hole began less than half an hour later.

Death Valley National Park rangers said in a statement later that day, “Twenty-two minutes [following the earthquake], water started sloshing 1,500 miles away in Devil’s Hole. The waves reached 4 feet high around 11:35 a.m.”

More specifically, rangers said the 7.6 earthquake that struck the Western region of Mexico resulted in a “seiche.” Per the outlet, a seiche is a wave that swings around a standing body of water. The September 16th seiche was significant as it kicked up sediment and rocks from the shallow side of the cavern and washed away algae growth.

Why the Loss of Devil’s Hole Algae Growth is So Impactful

It’s not often we get to see the seemingly harmless effects of a powerful earthquake thousands of miles away. However, as fascinating as the Devil’s Hole seiche might be, it’s also potentially dangerous.

Despite the extreme weather conditions common in Death Valley National Park, Devil’s Hole is home to the rarest fish in the world: the Devil’s Hole pupfish.

(Photo by Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Devil’s Hole is currently home to about 175 pupfish and the species largely depends on the cavern’s algae growth. So following the earthquake earlier this week, wildlife experts worried the sleiche would wipe out a portion of that extremely small population. Fortunately, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

National Park Service aquatic ecologist said after the quake, “The pupfish have survived several of these events in recent years. We didn’t find any dead fish after the waves stopped. The Devils Hole pupfish population have been on an upswing lately.”

Historic Floods Leave Just One Entrance Open in Death Valley National Park

For being one of the driest places on the planet, Death Valley has seen a lot of water lately. Aside from the desert tsunami which struck Devil’s Hole earlier this week, the park’s recently been enduring some extreme flooding.

In early August, extreme floods damaged many regions across the national park, even leaving some drivers stranded. A little more than a month later, further flooding shut down multiple park entrances and, as of Sunday, left just one entrance open.

Over the weekend, most of Death Valley’s paved roads remained closed. The only route left accessible thanks to excessive rainfall comes in from the east side of the park via Death Valley Junction and California Highway 190. To the west, Death Valley’s entrances were closed.

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