Salt Creek (Death Valley National Park) 13-Nov-2021

After five days of ceaseless adventuring, we faced the long drive home on the morrow. So, for Adventure #6, we decided to visit close-by attractions – Salt Creek and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes – that we’d previously by-passed in favor of more remote, less crowded destinations. We beat the crowds at Salt Creek but were engulfed by them at the dunes – but we still got to see some interesting stuff.

Salt Creek

The creek is assessed via a short dirt road that leaves Highway 190 just 16.4 miles (26 km) north of Furnace Creek. The short hike here is mainly a stroll on a boardwalk (to protect fragile vegetation) but a longer dirt trail is available.

Salt Creek is another of those water features in Death Valley (like Saratoga Spring to the south) that you can’t see until you pull into the parking lot. Tucked between low hills west of Highway 190, only 0.9 miles (1.5 km) of it are perennial surface flows. We didn’t see any, but the creek is the exclusive home of the Salt Creek pupfish, one of the several cute pupfish species that occupy isolated habitats in and around Death Valley. It’s tough being a pupfish. In rainy years your habitat expands but extreme rainfall events – like flash floods – can be fatal. And in dry years your habitat contracts, competition for food increases, and starvation threatens. Yet they’ve survived.

Surface water disappears just south of the parking area
Salt Creek with the Cottonwood Mountains in the distance
Salt Creek
Shallow waters over sand
Searching in vain for pupfish
Water amongst the Pickleweed
Cracked

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

After strolling the boardwalk at Salt Creek, we drove over to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes just off Highway 190. They are among the most visited and most photographed (especially at dawn and dusk) features in the park. When we reached them about mid-morning, they were crawling with visitors, including a bunch who had set-up chairs and beach umbrellas in front of the tallest dune (which also had a line of people climbing it). There were human footprints in the sand for as far as the eye could see. I wandered off to see if there was some untrodden dune, or at least some trodden by something other than humans.

Footprints everywhere in the sand
A fallen Mesquite tree, namesake of the dunes
Wayne among the dunes
Beetle tracks
Kangaroo rat tracks
Shadows on the sand

After this brief visit to the dunes, we retreated to Furnace Creek, where our souvenir purchases pumped some more money into its economy. Then we spent the heat of the day lounging around, resting-up for our 12-hour drive home the next day. 😁

Homeward bound…
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4 comments

  1. Yes, we had a full schedule. You must have just hit a lull – December is usually one of Death Valley’s busier month. But the pandemic seems to have done wonders for RV sales – the RV camping area at Texas Springs was full during our visit, with some on the overflow lot.

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  2. We were in Death Valley in December 2018 and there were few people around. Not sure if it was the time of year that made the difference, or if the pandemic has caused the swell in crowds. 😦 Looks like you made the most of your time in Death Valley!

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