Saturday, February 13, 2010

Death Valley Not Quite So Dry This Year...

Blogging from the road! There is actually some web access in Death Valley...slow, sensitive, moody, but it works, sort of. I'm out here with nearly three dozen students and volunteers, experiencing an unusually wet climate (correction: "weather", see the comments) by Death Valley standards. They've received a year's worth of precipitation (~2 inches!) in about three week's time. Most of the dirt roads are out of commission, and some of the paved roads are still impassable as well (Artist's Drive and Dante's View). Still, we have found plenty to do.

There are certainly some unusual sights for Death Valley: morning dew soaking our camp in the morning, a bit of fog in the early morning, but best of all: a flowing river and a huge lake!

The Amargosa River drains a huge region of western Nevada, but is generally dry most of the time except along a few precious stretches where ground water is forced to the surface. This year it is raging torrent (ok, a babbling brook) all across the bottom of the Death Valley graben. One could almost float an inner tube in it.

The lake covers a fair portion of the ~100 square mile saltpan. Although it is large, it probably is no more than a foot or so deep, and will undoubtedly dry up in coming months as the weather warms up. It provides a beautiful foreground for viewing the snow-capped peaks of the Panamint Mountains.

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