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Kayaking no longer possible on Death Valley’s temporary lake

Updated March 4, 2024 - 6:54 pm

The oppressive winds felt in Las Vegas this past week also were felt throughout the region, stifling the limited opportunity to kayak on the ephemeral lake at Death Valley National Park, rangers announced Monday.

Lake Manly, a temporary lake atop a salt flat that formed after rains from California’s atmospheric rivers and Tropical Storm Hilary, has only been accessible to the public and deep enough to kayak for just short of two weeks.

Before now, the lake was visible in 2005 for about a week. But kayaking in North America’s driest place, about 130 miles west of Las Vegas, was a short-lived anomaly that attracted visitors from across the country.

Winds caused the salty water to move 2 miles north and spread out, making it less deep, rangers said.

“It was amazing to see an entire lake migrate!” Superintendent Mike Reynolds said in a news release. “But now the water is drying up, leaving wide mudflats. People were walking a long way, sometimes dragging their boats. This leaves footprints and drag marks that will likely be visible for years. This left us with no choice but to curtail boating on historic Lake Manly at this time.”

Gusts up to 21 mph were recorded at Furnace Creek Vistor Center, the nearest monitoring station, according to the National Weather Service’s Las Vegas office.

They stayed between 16 and 21 mph during the period that the lake shifted, the center said.

The winds could have reached up to 40 mph closer to Badwater Basin, where the lake once was full, the National Park Service said.

At Lake Manly’s height, it was 6 miles long, 3 miles wide and 1 foot deep.

While it was full, it was possible to launch a kayak 10 feet from the road in certain spots.

Boating is no longer allowed because the damage boats might leave on the muddy floor would stick around until the next time the lake fills up, rangers said.

“Visitors for the next few years would prefer to see the natural polygon designs in the salt, rather than hard-crusted footprints and deep boat drag marks,” Reynolds said.

Contact Alan at ahalaly@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlanHalaly on X.

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