I WILL NEVER SEE WINGATE PASS
No road, no gas, no access, no way.
But, does it matter?
In telling the story of past climates and the water inflows that create a huge lake in Death Valley during ice ages, the one spot I have not been able to picture is Wingate Pass where water from California's dry lakes (Owens, Searles, China) spills over into Death Valley and feeds the Amargosa River. There used to be a road through the Wingate Wash drainage, it was used by mule-drawn heavy wagons carrying borax (the red and blue routes just before they turn north in the bottom of Death Valley):
I checked with the information desk: no travel allowed on that route. I checked with the Internet and some reported great difficulty getting to the non-Death Valley end of the route because of Federal government access restrictions (a naval air station sits there). And with the price of gas what it is this year and forever more, well, I did not want to see it all that bad anyway. BUT, here is what I am doing instead: maps and maps and getting as close as I can.
The visitors center 3-D map of Death Valley is a good surrogate for reality. Here is a view from the east looking west at the Wingate Wash drainage (marks the southern end of the Panamint Range). Pay no attention to the seam where two map segments have been glued together. The wash comes into the Amargosa River where the "West Side Road" takes off from the main road and crosses the river, or so it seems on this photo map:
So let's go there and see what there is to see at that location, and you can see a side channel coming in where the brush on the right bank is interrupted. OK.
But there is another map in the visitors center, and this one suggests that the Wingate drainage actually goes north before hitting the Amargosa:
So, is this one of the channels that could now be receiving Wingate Wash water? Maybe, maybe not.
Driving up the Warm Spring drainage gives a view toward Wingate Wash with a line of hills in front of it:
If you can't be in the drainage you love, love the drainage you're in. Or so the saying goes, and of course the Warm Spring drainage is very nice to look at:
And looking back at the Amargosa River is also nice, especially when one can see a drainage (light material) that may well be the one I am looking for:
That second map, above, suggested that the Wingate Wash drainage channel disappeared onto a broad fan of alluvium. Maybe this is that fan (looking down to the Amargosa River channel):
Why does any of this matter? It doesn't. What is fascinating is the idea that when glaciers melt on the Sierra Nevada during an ice age, and precipitation in the are doubles and it is cooler (yeah!), California's currently dry lakes fill up to overflowing, and overflow through Wingate Pass. That is the story, and it may have happened four times in the last 2 million years.
There are many photos about the southern inflow route on this web site. But no pictures of the western inflow route until now (if this counts that is).
This is what Lake Manly may have looked like in the past:
And this is as close to a look at the pass as I will ever have (first the display, then the photo):
So, was this trip to the south of Death Valley a waste of time? Of course not! I thoroughly enjoyed some of the views at and near the river bed and of some nice volcanic rocks, for example:
And just to remind you of where we are, here is a shot from above Dante's View toward Telescope Peak, with Badwater down below, taken in the visitors center:
And here is a view toward one of the smaller lakes of salt before one gets to Badwater from the south:
And that will be all for this part of the Death Valley tour. Salt Creek is linked below, very different from this setting, there is water, greenery, and fish!
Go to Other 2008 Death Valley destinations:
Devils Hole Workshop Field Trip
Go to California Page
Go to 2008 Yearbook
Go to ThoughtsandPlaces.Org Home Page