Devils Hole Workshop Field Trip 2005

STOP 1: NEVARES SPRINGS IN DEATH VALLEY

This year's Devils Hole Workshop was sponsored by Inyo County, California, and took place at the Death Valley Visitors Center.  Last year's workshop (click to go there) was hosted by Nye County, Nevada, where Devils Hole is located.  

Inyo County, in cooperation with the National Park Service, Nye County, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Energy are studying the groundwater resources of the area.  This year, three locations were visited with a description of the studies being conducted there.  Two were in Death Valley and one was just outside Death Valley.  Their purpose?  To study the underground water flow from Amargosa Valley into Death Valley.

When there is a mountain range separating two valleys, why would there be underground flow right through that range?  Because, as it was explained, the ground movements in the area have caused that range to resemble tumbled dominos at depth, giving deep water opportunity to continue to travel downward and eventually come to the surface in springs where the lower elevation of Death Valley cuts across their underground flow paths.

So, our first stop is indicated on this photo taken from a jetliner (so is our second stop, but ignore it for now):

The mountain under the "Site One" words is Nevares Peak.  On the ground it looks like this.  And the vegetation?  Fed by Nevares Springs, of course.

You can tell that there is some water in the ground, near the surface, in the gully below and in front of us, as well as where I am standing to take these pictures.

As I step back and  to the left, I get into the thick of the springs' vegetation.

Here it is again, the central part of the Nevares Springs complex (there are several clusters of small outlets scattered around here and there at the base of this modest sized mountain.  Is Nevares Mountain itself the catchment area for this inflow into Death Valley?  The suspicion is that this water flows under these mountains, and comes from the Amargosa Valley to the east:

And here is still more vegetation:

The Nevares springs area, in places, can be muddy to the point where if you step in it, a black ooze spreads where you have just disturbed an area a centimeter from the surface, at most, that is deprived of oxygen (anaerobic, anoxic, reducing).

A few feet away, however, clear water runs among the grass shoots (lower central part of photo, but so clear that it is almost invisible here):

So what is the setting of Nevares springs?  It is at the end of a road closed to the public, and feeds the needs of a community of Park Service and associated California State employees.  Here is that road with a view toward the central part of Death Valley:

Quite dry and hot here, as you can see by the lack of vegetation in the photo above as well as below (away from the course water takes away from the springs, there is almost nothing growing):

But up on the slopes of Nevares mountain, the combination of some runoff and some shade during the day allows plants to grow even without spring water in the ground at rooting depth.  These are mostly Desert Holly  varieties:

These Desert Holly has leaves that range from light green to silver to light purple and are quite decorative:

In the springs area itself, some weeds become stately flowers:

That is Telescope Peak in the background of both pictures (above and below):

The view to the southwest was very good from this point (note the watercourse again, and the dead palms: since they were an introduced species that compete with native vegetation, they are being poisoned [makes me feel rather vulnerable, I am also an immigrant]:

Next we look at the road that takes us to our Stop #2.

Go to page that takes you on the road from Stop 1 to Stop 2

Go to Stop 2: National Park Service Travertine Wells

Go to page that describes the road from Stop 2 to Stop 3 (California 190)

Go to the page that shows more of the road from Stop 2 to Stop 3 (California 190)

Go to Stop 3: Inyo County well #1

Go to Stop 4: the Hectorite Mine uphill from Stop 3

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