The Desert IndependentTM
Serving Blythe and the Desert Regions of the Southwest Since 2001
Restoration to remove tire tracks caused by off-roaders at Death Valley Racetrack
March 19, 2018
DEATH VALLEY, CA –Recently, volunteers from the Friends of the Inyo and National Park Service staff spent a weekend attempting to remove tire tracks from the Racetrack playa in Death Valley National Park. Nineteen people used garden tools and 750 gallons of water to attempt to restore 512 feet of tire tracks. The tire tracks were very visible and this effort helps to eliminate the tire track depressions and bring back the natural polygon shapes on the playa. By the conclusion of the project, the geometric patterns could be seen beginning to reform.
“The Racetrack is a unique geologic oddity found within Death Valley,” stated Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “It is a once in a lifetime destination for many people and tire tracks on this playa, or any other off-road site, impair the enjoyment of the site by thousands of visitors. We are extremely grateful for the volunteers who took on this remote, complicated job.”
The moving rocks of the Racetrack, and the trails they leave etched in the dry lake bed, have been a curiosity to the public and enigma to the science community for decades. Countless theories have tried to explain the movement of the rocks, but in 2013 a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego team observed the rocks moving and published their findings in PLOS ONE.
Driving off road onto the playa is illegal and leaves tracks that will take decades for nature to restore. The lake bed is within designated wilderness and as such is to be enjoyed by walking in from the parking areas. The National Park Service continues to prosecute those found driving on the playa and currently has multiple pending cases.
Death Valley National Park wants to remind people that the Racetrack is located in a remote area of the park and road conditions are variable at best, requiring high clearance vehicles and heavy duty tires. Do not attempt a trip to the Racetrack without a plenty of fuel and water. There is no cell phone service in the area. Be prepared for the possibility of spending the night if your vehicle becomes disabled.
Death Valley National Park is the homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone and preserves natural and cultural resources, exceptional wilderness, scenery, and learning experiences within the nation’s largest conserved desert landscape and some of the most extreme climate and topographic conditions on the planet. About two-thirds of the park was originally designated as Death Valley National Monument in 1933. Today the park is enjoyed by about 1,300,000 people per year. The park is 3,400,000 acres – nearly as large as the state of Connecticut. Learn more at www.nps.gov/deva.
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