DEATH VALLEY, CA – There are unusually dense displays of wildflowers in several areas of Death Valley National Park. Triggered by a series of storms in October, the current flower display is the best the park has experienced in a decade.
Death Valley is the hottest place on Earth and the driest place in North America, averaging about two inches of rain per year. These extreme conditions make it difficult for most plants to survive. Most of the time, the lower elevations in the park appear stark: a landscape of salt flats, sand dunes and rocky mountains vegetated by a few hardy shrubs and small trees.
Rain in cooler months triggers wildflower seeds to sprout, some of which may lay dormant for years until just the right conditions occur. Wildflowers bloom each spring in Death Valley, but the density of flowers, extent of the area covered by flowers, and variety of plants varies a lot based on rainfall and temperature.
A series of unusual storms in October dropped locally heavy rainfall in several areas of the park. The most rain fell in places without official rain gauges, but the National Weather Service estimated that over 3 inches of rain fell in just 5 hours in one area of the park. This autumn soaking was followed by enough winter rain to cause a large-scale wildflower bloom.
October’s storms also caused flash floods which damaged park roads and the historic district at Scotty’s Castle. Most roads have been repaired and re-opened, including most recently the very scenic Twenty Mule Team Road. Major roads that remain closed are: Scotty’s Castle Road (8 miles in Grapevine Canyon), Badwater Road (from Ashford Mill to Shoshone over Jubilee Pass) and Lower Wildrose Road. Repairs to utilities and historic structures at Scotty’s Castle could take a few years.
The current bloom in Death Valley exceeds anything park staff has seen since the 2005. Some people are calling it a “super bloom,” which is not an official term. Park Ranger Alan Van Valkenburg has lived in Death Valley for 25 years and said, “I’m not really sure where the term “super bloom” originated, but when I first came to work here in the early 1990s I kept hearing the old timers talk about super blooms as a near mythical thing–the ultimate possibility of what a desert wildflower bloom could be. I saw several impressive displays of wildflowers over the years and always wondered how anything could beat them, until I saw my first super bloom in 1998. Then I understood. I never imagined that so much life could exist here in such staggering abundance and intense beauty.”
The previous super blooms of 1998 and 2005 occurred in El Nino years. El Nino can affect Death Valley by shifting the track of winter and spring storms into the area, increasing rainfall during flower season.
Matching previous patterns, this year’s wildflower bloom started in elevations below 1,000 feet in the southern end of the park. Typically, the peak of the bloom will move northward and upwards in elevation over the course of the spring. The bloom in lower elevations is likely to continue at least through mid-March, with flowers at higher elevations possible later in the spring.
One area that is currently particularly spectacular is about 10 miles south of Badwater on Badwater Road, where Desert Gold is growing so thickly it appears as if the alluvial fan were painted yellow. Nice displays of white and purple flowers are visible along the Beatty Cutoff Road. Park Ranger Alan Van Valkenburg described the bloom, “The hills and alluvial fans that normally have just rocks and gravel are transformed by huge swaths of yellow, white, pink, and purple. At first glance you are blown away by the sheer numbers of flowers, then on closer inspection the diversity of species will draw you in.”
While broad areas of color can be viewed from the road, another way to appreciate the flowers is to walk among them. Some flowers are commonly called “belly flowers” because it is easiest to appreciate their beauty by getting down to ground level. With over twenty species of flower in bloom currently, everyone can find their favorites. Many park employees identify the beautiful Desert Five-Spot as their favorite, an elusive flower that consists of five pink-purple petals in a cup-shape, with a large red spot on each petal. Another engaging flower is the Gravel Ghost, which has leaves that blend in flat against the gravel and has a white flower that appears to float about a foot or two above the ground on a very thin stalk.
Superintendent Mike Reynolds said, “Right now is the best time to visit Death Valley in over a decade! The flower display is astounding and this is a rare time to experience one of the most incredible displays Death Valley has to offer. We don’t know how long the bloom will last so come now!”
Park roads, campgrounds and hotels are all busy currently with the increase in visitation triggered by the wildflowers, so visitors should plan accordingly. All flowers should be enjoyed in place, as picking wildflowers or removing them from the park is illegal and reduces other visitors’ enjoyment.
The BADWATER® ultra running experience returns to the East Coast in one month when the third BADWATER CAPE FEAR race takes place on Bald Head Island, North Carolina on March 19, 2016.
With 50km and 51-mile race options, Badwater® Cape Fear features a twelve-mile warm-up on the car-free, one-lane-wide roads of Bald Head Island, followed by either 19 or 39 miles of running on the wild and secluded sandy beach between Cape Fear and Fort Fisher. The race is held along the Atlantic Seaboard with spectacular views of the Frying Pan Shoals to the east and wild and undeveloped marshlands to the west. Running this remote coast is a dramatic, invigorating, and inspiring manner in which to experience the Cape Fear region in all its grandeur!
This exquisite natural setting is the perfect antidote to the “real world” and a wonderful counterpart to the desert sands and mountains of Death Valley and Anza-Borrego Desert featured in the two West Coast BADWATER® races.
Bald Head Island and nearby Southport, NC (featured in the film “Safe Haven”) are ideal vacation get-away spots for the entire family, located less than one hour from Wilmington, NC and its major airport with Delta and US Airways service. (Flying into Myrtle Beach, SC is another convenient option.) Due to the remarkable beauty and quaint southern charm of this area, as well as this impeccable, authentic BADWATER race experience, many Badwater Cape Fear participants are now making this race an annual pilgrimage!
With registration closing in the next few weeks, the 2016 year the race will feature a field of approximately 150 runners. The 2016 field currently includes five Canadians plus runners from 25 American states, districts, and territories: Arizona (2), California (7), Colorado (2), Connecticut (1), District of Columbia (2), Florida (10), Georgia (5), Illinois (2), Massachusetts (3), Maryland (1), Michigan (1), Minnesota (2), Missouri (1), North Carolina (40), New Jersey (2), New York (8), Ohio (8), Pennsylvania (6), Puerto Rico (1), South Carolina (5), Tennessee (4), Texas (11), Virginia (8), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (1). Here is the current race roster: https://www.runreg.com/Confirmed/5627
The Official Charity of BADWATER CAPE FEAR is the Bald Head Island Conservancy, a leader in barrier island conservation, preservation, and education. Race participants and supporters appreciate that BHIC cares for this race route’s pristine setting and its role as a sea turtle nesting site, and are encouraged to fundraise for BHIC and support its mission. Learn more at http://www.bhic.org
Local Sponsors include Coastal Urge, which will host a pre-race social mixer at their Bald Head Island location, and Big Spoon Roasters of Durham, NC. The finish line feast and the post-race breakfast will be catered by Maritime Market. Special home rental offers on Bald Head Island are available through Bald Head Island Limited, Wendy Wilmot Properties, and Seabreeze Rentals, while the Hampton Inn in Southport has also extended a special rate. Marybeth and George Ray of Southport Paddle & Sail will also support the race with their time and talent. The event is being hosted under special permits from the Village of Bald Head Island and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.
Badwater Cape Fear is the first leg of the BADWATER® ULTRA CUP, which includes Badwater Cape Fear onMarch 19, the 81-mile Badwater Salton Sea in Borrego Springs, CA on May 1-2, and then the STYR Labs Badwater 135 from California’s Death Valley to Mt. Whitney on July 18-20. Those runners who complete all three full-distance events in the same calendar year will be featured on the Badwater website and their virtues will be extolled throughout the Internet and in future editions of BADWATER Magazine.
AdventureCORPS®, Inc. is an athlete-run firm producing and promoting ultra-endurance sports events and BADWATER®, the world’s toughest brand and the world’s toughest races. Adventure is our way of life. AdventureCORPS’ world-class events for athlete-adventurers include epic races such as the BADWATER® 135, BADWATER® SALTON SEA, BADWATER® CAPE FEAR, Silver State 508™, and other events. Our products include Badwater® Apparel, Badwater® Skin Care, Badwater® Gear, as well as other lifestyle items and services. Founded in 1984 by Chris Kostman, this group effort is dedicated to exploring the inner and outer universes, seeking adventure, energy, and insight both in daily life and “out there.”
Furnace Creek, CA – AdventureCORPS®, Inc., hosts of the STYR Labs Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, is currently accepting applications for this year’s race, scheduled for July 18–20, 2016. Now in its 39th year and recognized globally as “the world’s toughest foot race,” this iconic race pits up to 100 of the world’s toughest athletes – runners, triathletes, adventure racers, and mountaineers – against one another and the elements. The race starts at Badwater Basin within DeathValley National Park, the lowest point in North America at 280 feet (85m) below sea level, and the location officially recognized as the hottest spot on earth (hitting 134 degrees Fahrenheit in 1913). From that auspicious start line, the course covers 135 miles (217km) non-stop over the most epic terrain imaginable. including traversing three mountain ranges for a total of 14,600 feet (4450m) of cumulative vertical ascent and 6,100 feet (1859m) of cumulative descent. The race finishes at the end of the road high on Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the Lower 48, making it the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet. For those who finish in less than 48 hours, their reward is the coveted Badwater 135 belt buckle (see attached). There is no prize money.
With a field limit of 100 runners, the STYR Labs Badwater 135 is, and always has been, an invitational race. Applicants must meet rigorous qualifying standards prior to submitting an application, which is then reviewed and scored by a committee. For rookie entrants, minimum requirements include three 100-mile race finishes or a completion of the Brazil 135, plus submitting an extensive application with running resumé, details of charitable efforts, along with answering a variety of questions ranging from “What percentage of your athletic peers would say that you are a good human being?” to “Who is your favorite author and/or book?” More information is here:http://www.badwater.com/event/badwater-135/#tab-entry The actual application is here: https://www.runreg.com/bw135
Based on past participation, it is anticipated that the 2016 field will include runners from 20 to 25 American states and represent 20 to 25 countries or nationalities.
Now in its seventeenth year producing this race, AdventureCORPS is pleased to welcome the support of title sponsor STYR Labs (formerly Nutrimatix), makers of the world’s best tasting, all-natural vitamin products, blended using a combination of personal fitness data and responses to an interactive lifestyle questionnaire. These customized supplements are backed by real science and more than 30 years of pharmaceutical and exercise research, as well as through three consecutive Badwater 135 finishes by the company’s founder and CEO, Sergio Radovcic.
AdventureCORPS also greatly appreciates the support of Caring House Project Foundation, ZZYXXZ, Nathan Performance Gear, and ZombieRunner.com, plus the local support of Furnace Creek Ranch, Stovepipe Wells Resort, Panamint Springs Resort, Dow Villa, Pizza Factory, the community of Lone Pine, CA, the people of Inyo County, and other generous companies and individuals. More info: http://www.badwater.com/about-us/sponsors/
Official Charities of the Badwater 135 include the Challenged Athletes Foundation. As one of the very few charities that provides grants directly to athletes with a physical disability, the Challenged Athletes Foundation has raised over thirty million dollars and directly assisted thousands of challenged athletes world-wide. AdventureCORPS also supports the Bald Head Island Conservancy, Conservation Alliance, and One Percent For The Planet, among others. One of the goals of the Badwater 135 is to raise funds for, and awareness of, these organizations, along with minimizing and mitigating environmental impact. More info: http://www.badwater.com/about-us/charities/ and http://www.badwater.com/about-us/environment/
The event is held under special use permits from DeathValley National Park, California Department of Transportation, Inyo National Forest, and Inyo County.
Chris Kostman, Chief Adventure Officer and Race Director
TURNING TO PEOPLE ON THE GROUND… in a particularly remote destination has forever been the time-honored way a traveler can tell when the optimal moment is to go. Absolutely, webcams have helped a bit here, as we can now see, with our own peepers, just how much snow a favorite ski slope might have or if a beach is looking crowded or not. We still, however, await word from Death Valley National Park, and the people who work there, on the matter of a yearly phenomenon that can be great, or on the so-so side, depending on the weather and rain. We speak of the springtime bloom, a marvel of the desert, something that truly has to be seen in person. And reports are coming in from the rangers and hotels of the national park that “Spring Has Sprung in Death Valley!” and on the early side, too. Of course, past Januaries have seen some sprightly flower action, but thanks to those epic October rains, and other factors, it looks like the Desert Gold and the Brown-Eyed Evening Primrose and other classic desert buds are revving up for a good show…
Death Valley, CA–Starting December 14th, and through the holiday season, citizen scientists will once again fan out across America and America’s national parks to count birds. One of the longest running citizen science events in the world, the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began in 1900. It provides reliable data that help demonstrate the importance of national parks to birds.
This year the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for Death Valley National Park will take place on January 2, 2016. Birders can experience the diversity of habitats and species found in the Death Valley/Furnace Creek area. The public is invited to participate in this count and all skill levels are welcome. For beginners, this is a great opportunity to learn about birds in the area, get identification tips and meet others interested in desert environments.
The bird count will begin at 7 a.m. at the Furnace Creek Golf Course parking lot. Participants should dress in layers and bring a hat, sunscreen, water and food. Binoculars are recommended. Participants do not need to commit to the entire day, but must be there at 7 a.m. All skill levels are welcome. Contact Linda Manning 760-786-3252 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Food and lodging are available in Death Valley National Park and in surrounding communities.
The data collected by CBC participants over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other bird surveys, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed over the past hundred years. The long-term perspective made possible by the Christmas Bird Count is vital for conservationists. It helps guide strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. Each year, the CBC mobilizes more than 70,000 volunteers in more than 2,400 locations. When compiled, the results will be posted at http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.
The Christmas Bird Count is also a fun day to be outdoors, learn about local and migratory bird species, and meet new people.
Encampment: Wednesday November 11th through Sunday November 15th, 2015
Join us in Furnace Creek, CA. 2015 Pre-Encampment: Sunday November 8th through Tuesday November 10th. 2015 Encampment: Wednesday November 11th through Sunday November 15th, 2015. Encampment events begin Wednesday and run until Sunday. These five days are filled with events including old-time and western-style music, an Invitational Western Art Show, craft shows, golf tournament, wheelbarrow and prospector’s races, a pioneer costume contest, 4X4 tours, wagon train and horse parades, community breakfasts and our Worlds Lowest 1849 Poker Tournament.
Gift supports video project for National Park Service Centennial Anniversary in 2016
Death Valley, CA – Rio Tinto Minerals has donated $50,000 to produce a documentary video series on the unique beauty and history of Death Valley National Park as part of the National Park Service Centennial anniversary in 2016.
The gift was made through the non-profit Death Valley Natural History Association to support the Death Valley National Park video project, a multi-agency collaboration with the National Park Service and Bristlecone Media, whose documentary credits include The Mono Lake Story, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, and Grand Canyon in Depth.
The “Death Valley Explorer” video series is designed to engage the public in the park’s rich environmental and cultural history. Each episode will feature visually stunning imagery and inspiring natural and human stories that highlight the unique attributes of America’s lowest, hottest and driest National Park.
“Rio Tinto Minerals is extremely proud of our heritage that dates back to the 1880s, when our 20 Mule Team wagons first hauled Borax out of Death Valley, and still today, remain one of the most memorable icons of the American West,” Dean Gehring, President and CEO of Rio Tinto Minerals. “Our hope is that this video series inspires a new generation of Americans to appreciate Death Valley’s one-of-a-kind geology and history that has been so important to our employees and the local community.”
The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation recently launched Find Your Park, a public awareness and education campaign celebrating the milestone centennial anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016 and setting the stage for the next 100 years. The goal of the NPS Centennial is to connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates.
“We hope this series will strengthen the connection between the American people and Death Valley National Park, and build a sense of ownership and pride, inspiring a commitment to its stewardship,” stated acting Superintendent Mallory Smith.
Rio Tinto Minerals’ commitment to environmental preservation dates back to the early days of Borax. In 1916, previous company officials helped write the language that was adopted by Congress to establish the National Park Service.
Later the company, which operated for decades as U.S. Borax, donated land holdings to the federal government and lobbied to have the area protected as a National Monument in 1933, and again as a National Park in 1994. In 2010, Rio Tinto Minerals donated an additional 110 acres and associated mineral rights to Death Valley National Park.
About Rio Tinto Minerals Part of Rio Tinto Group, Rio Tinto Minerals supplies about 30 percent of the world’s refined borates – a critical ingredient in hundreds of products including glass, fiberglass, ceramics, fertilizers, wood preservatives and detergents – from its operation in California’s Mojave Desert, one of the richest borate deposits on earth. Learn more at http://www.riotintominerals.com/.
About National Park Service Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks, which includes more than 400 places that have 275 million visitors every year. Death Valley is the largest U.S. National Park outside Alaska at 3.4 million acres. About 91% of the park is protected as officially designated Wilderness.
About Death Valley Natural History Association Since 1954 the Death Valley Natural History Association (DVNHA) has been the official nonprofit partner of Death Valley National Park. In that time, DVNHA has donated over $3.5 million to the National Park supporting education, preservation, and scientific research. For more information or to make a donation, please go to http://www.dvnha.org or call 800-478-8564.
Mike Reynolds has been named as the new superintendent of Death Valley National Park, located in eastern California and western Nevada. He replaces Kathy Billings who recently retired. Reynolds will begin his new assignment on May 31, 2015, managing a staff of 125 full-time employees and an annual budget of approximately $9 million.
“Mike is an experienced leader with the National Park Service, and we know his skills, experience, and passion for Death Valley make him a great fit for Death Valley National Park,” said Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz. “I am delighted to keep him in our region and know that park staff, partners, and community members will enjoy working with him.”
Reynolds most recently served as superintendent of Lava Beds National Monument and the Tule Lake Unit of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, both located in northeastern California. He has worked with both the local and Japanese American communities to develop the future of the new Tule Lake Unit. A general management plan is nearing its final stages. Reynolds will indirectly continue his affiliation with the story of Japanese American incarceration through Death Valley’s close connection to Manzanar National Historic Site.
“I am excited by the chance to further the NPS mission at Death Valley and humbled by the opportunity to serve the visitors, resources, and staff at the park,” said Mike Reynolds. “Death Valley is a world class resource and I look forward to the opportunity to live and work there again.”
Reynolds has worked for the National Park Service for more than 18 years and has served at Big Bend, Great Smoky Mountains, Death Valley, and Yellowstone National Parks. He also spent three and a half years as superintendent at the National Park of American Samoa. Reynolds has a BS in Math and Business Operations from Indiana University and an MS in Outdoor Recreation from Arizona State University. Reynolds will relocate to Death Valley along with his partner, Sarah Bone, and his Samoan cat named Tele. As avid outdoor enthusiasts, they look forward to running, hiking, and backpacking throughout the beautiful and wild park.
(See our brand new, totally redesigned www.Badwater.com website for all the info!)
The BADWATER® ultra running experience returns to the East Coast in two weeks when the second BADWATER CAPE FEAR race takes place on Bald Head Island, North Carolina on March 21, 2015. An image of the 51-mile race finisher’s buckle is attached, along with other images from the race’s inaugural edition in March of 2014.
With 50km and 51-mile options, Badwater® Cape Fear features a twelve-mile warm-up on the car-free, one-lane-wide roads of Bald Head Island, followed by either 19 or 39 miles of running on the wild and secluded sandy beach between Cape Fear and Fort Fisher. The race is held along the Atlantic Seaboard with spectacular views of the Frying Pan Shoals to the east and wild and undeveloped marshlands to the west. It is and dramatic, invigorating, and inspiring manner in which to experience Cape Fear in all its grandeur!
This exquisite natural setting is the perfect antidote to the “real world” and a wonderful counterpart to the desert sands of Death Valley and Anza-Borrego Desert featured in the two West Coast BADWATER® races.
Bald Head Island and nearby Southport, NC (featured in the film “Safe Haven”) are ideal vacation get-away spots for the entire family, located less than one hour from Wilmington, NC and its major airport with Delta and US Airways service (flying into Myrtle Beach, SC is another convenient option.)
Once the remarkable beauty and quaint southern charm of this area are experienced once, we anticipate that most Badwater Cape Fear participants will make this race an annual pilgrimage.
With registration closing in the next few days, the 2015 year the race will feature a field of approximately 130 runners. There are 42 women and 88 men, ranging in age from 20 to 69, currently registered. Full race roster: https://www.runreg.com/Confirmed/5239
Countries represented in the 2015 field include Canada, Singapore, and the Philippines, plus runners represent 26 American states, districts, and territories: Alabama (3), California (3), Connecticut (1), District of Columbia (1), Florida (24), Georgia (3), Illinois (1), Massachusetts (2), Maryland (5), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), North Carolina (40), Nebraska (1), Nevada (2), New Jersey (2), New York (4), Ohio (4), Pennsylvania (5), Puerto Rico (1), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (5), Texas (4), Virginia (4), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3).
The Official Charity of BADWATER CAPE FEAR is the Bald Head Island Conservancy, a leader in barrier island conservation, preservation, and education. Race participants will appreciate that BHIC cares for this race route’s pristine setting and its role as a sea turtle nesting site, and are encouraged to fundraise for BHIC and support its mission.
The goal of the race is to raise $10,000 for Bald Head Island Conservancy, which is enough to purchase one of the special UTV vehicles which BHIC uses to patrol the beach and care for sea turtle nesting sites, as shown in the attached photograph. Learn more at http://www.bhic.org
Local Sponsors include Coastal Urge, which will host a pre-race social mixer at their Bald Head Island location. The finish line feast and the post-race breakfast will be catered by Maritime Market. Special home rental offers on Bald Head Island are available through Bald Head Island Limited, Wendy Wilmot Properties, and Seabreeze Rentals, while the Hampton Inn in Southport has also extended a special rate. Marybeth and George Ray of Southport Paddle & Sail will also support the race with their time and talent. The event is being hosted under special permits from the Village of Bald Head Island and Fort Fisher State Recreation Area.
Badwater Cape Fear is the first leg of the BADWATER® ULTRA CUP, which includes Badwater Cape Fear on March 21, the 81-mile Badwater Salton Sea on May 3-4, and then Badwater 135 on July 28-30. Those runners who complete all three full-distance events in the same calendar year will be featured on the Badwater website and their virtues will be extolled throughout the Internet and in future editions of BADWATER Magazine. The male and female runners with the lowest combined times for the three events will be recognized as the 2015 Badwater Ultra Cup champions. More information, including the seven remarkable athletes who completed the entire Badwater Ultra Cup in 2014, is available at http://www.badwater.com/event/badwater-ultra-cup/
AdventureCORPS®, Inc. is an athlete-run firm producing and promoting ultra-endurance sports events and the BADWATER® brand. Adventure is our way of life. AdventureCORPS’ world-class events for athlete-adventurers include epic races such as the BADWATER® 135, BADWATER® SALTON SEA, BADWATER® CAPE FEAR, Silver State 508™, and other events. Our products include Badwater® Apparel, Badwater® Skin Care, Badwater® Gear, as well as other great lifestyle items and services. Founded in 1984 by Chris Kostman, this group effort is dedicated to exploring the inner and outer universes, seeking adventure, energy, and insight both in daily life and “out there.”