Death Valley is the driest national park in the United States, receiving an average of about 2.2 inches of rain a year. It’s also regarded as the hottest place on Earth.
So it might come as a bit of a shock to learn the park been closed for more than two weeks – but not from all this excessive heat we’ve suffered through this summer. It’s the rainy remnants of Hurricane Hilary (remember that storm?) that are the culprit.
On August 20, some 2.2 inches (55.88 mm) of rain was measured at Furnace Creek in Death Valley, making it the all-time wettest day recorded for that location, the National Park Service said in a recent news release.
The storm dumped so much rain on a park that gets so little that it left the fragile landscape in rough shape. “Extensive damage including undercutting and pavement loss has been found on major roads in the park and many roads are covered with debris,” the release said.
A repeat of flooding damage
This is the second year in a row this has happened. Then-record rainfall in August 2022 also closed up the park while workers made repairs to roads, trails and facilities.
And now all that work begins yet again. “Although all paved roads were repaired from the 2022 flood damage, there is still a lot of work to be done in the backcountry and this latest storm caused significant additional damage,” the NPS said.
This current closure has no end in sight. On its Facebook page on Labor Day, the park said, “Given the scope of the impacts from Tropical Storm Hilary, and the widespread debris on roads and areas of pavement damage, we don’t yet have a timeline for when the roads will reopen.”
If you’re looking for a national park desert escape, Joshua Tree National Park to the south is open. And in a reminder of how extreme desert country can be, there was fire ban in place there on Wednesday evening.