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Death Valley reopens 50 miles of roads

Fifty miles of roads in Death Valley National Park that had been closed due to flash floods since October reopened to the public on Monday.

The National Park Service has removed 500,000 tons of flood debris off of park roads, including Badwater and Harry Wade roads. Crews also repaired sharp drop-offs in road shoulders, making the commute through the popular tourist destination a safer one.

Thirty miles of Badwater Road and the 26-mile unpaved Harry Wade Road opened on Saturday, which is in addition to 17 miles of Badwater Road that had already been cleared and opened to the public several weeks ago.

Visitors can now drive 47 miles on the paved Badwater Road from Furnace Creek past Badwater Basin to Ashford Mill on a paved road. Harry Wade Road is a graded unpaved road that reopened on Saturday as well, providing access to the southern end of Death Valley National Park.

The reopened roads allow visitors access to popular attractions such as Ashford Mill and Saratoga Springs and to well-liked hikes such as Willow Creek and Sidewinder Canyon.

WIth all the progress being made, there are still some areas that remain closed. Badwater Road / California 178 from Ashford Mill to Shoshone, California remains closed. Pavement and road base were washed away in multiple locations near Jubilee Pass.

Help is on the way to get these areas of road back open, as funding has been secured through the Federal Highways Administration to repair the remaining part of Badwater Road. This section of road work will be done by contractors and with a target completion date in late spring.

Road crews have shifted to repairing West Side Road and Warm Springs Road, with a goal of opening them within a few weeks.

Most of the park is open to visitors, including Badwater, Artist’s Drive, Furnace Creek, Dante’s View, Zabriskie Point, Stovepipe Wells, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Golden Canyon, Mosaic Canyon, Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, Ubehebe Crater and the Racetrack.

There have been 257 National Park Service employees from 26 parks who have assisted with the flood recovery effort since early October. A series of severe storms in the first two weeks of October caused flash flood damage in multiple areas of Death Valley National Park. Once complete, this will be the costliest natural disaster in the history of the park.

The historic district at Scotty’s Castle was severely damaged by the storm on Oct. 18th, when over three inches of rain fell in just five hours in Grapevine Canyon, resulting in a 3,000 cubic feet per second flood that ripped out utilities, deposited thick layers of mud in the visitor center and Hacienda office building.

Over the past 2 months, crews have removed the mud that filled the swimming pool, removed up to 4 feet of mud from the interiors of three historic buildings and cleared flood debris 4 feet thick from areas of the historic grounds.

A lot of work remains before the museum collection can be properly cared for at the site and before Scotty’s Castle will be reopened to the public.

To get the most up-to-date information on road conditions, visit Death Valley’s website at nps.gov/deva, or follow us on www.facebook.com/DeathValleyRoadConditions/ and Twitter.

Contact reporter Mick Akers at makers@pvtimes.com. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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