DEATH VALLEY, CALIF. – After flash flooding caused extensive damage and closure last fall, Badwater Road is now fully open, connecting Death Valley National Park to the gateway town of Shoshone, California.
Work remains in other park areas to repair road and infrastructure damage caused by flash flooding last October, according to a park news release.
Several storms between Oct. 4 and Oct. 18 caused extreme flash flood damage. In one location, 2.7 inches of rain fell in just five hours, surpassing Death Valley’s average yearly precipitation.
Badwater Road is the main paved road in the southern end of Death Valley National Park. National Park Service road crews cleared large amounts of dirt and rock to open the northern section of Badwater Road by early November, providing access to popular destinations such as Badwater Basin, the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level.
A section of Badwater Road near Jubilee Pass was extensively damaged, with about a half-mile of pavement and road base washed away in multiple sections.
The road, which connects to CA-178 , is the main entrance into the southern section of Death Valley National Park. The 10-month closure affected hundreds of thousands of park visitors and the economy of Shoshone and Tecopa, the release said.
Most other park roads are now open, but the Grapevine Canyon section of Scotty’s Castle Road was the most heavily damaged road and is still closed, as are Scotty’s Castle and Grapevine Canyon.
“The flood was about a quarter the size of the Colorado River. It was so huge that it changed the shape of the canyon floor,” park spokeswoman Abby Wines said in the release. “That means it wouldn’t be smart to just replace the road like it was. Engineers are redesigning sections of the road.”
Construction isn’t expected to start until 2017.
Park managers are targeting 2019 to complete repairs and reopen the historic area. About 120,000 visitors per year traveled through Grapevine Canyon and more than 50,000 visitors per year took hourlong guided tours of Scotty’s Castle each year before the flood.
There is still much work left to be done, including repairs to several historic buildings that were damaged, including the Garage/Longshed, which houses the Scotty’s Castle Visitor Center. Repairs to the water system and electrical wiring also must be completed, and the sewer system must be replaced.