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California desert parks still working to repair flood damage

tortose mojave.jpg
Mike Gauthier
National Park Service
Recent rains have enabled many species of plant life to green up, allowing wildlife such as the desert tortoise to come out and forage on the abundant food supply on Aug. 12, 2022, in the Mojave National Preserve, Calif.

Timelines for repairs of flash flood damage to roads in California's vast desert wilderness parks are being extended even as monsoonal rains cause new problems along with unseasonal plant and animal activity.

Joshua Tree National Park was hit Tuesday by a massive rainstorm concentrated in the southern area of the park and road crews were working to assess and repair damage that closed several roads, a statement said Wednesday.

It was the second deluge there this month. The southern side of Joshua Tree was evacuated and roads closed when flooding hit on Aug. 8.

All northern facilities and paved roads have remained open.

In Death Valley National Park, state highway officials delayed Wednesday's planned reopening of State Route 190 after determining the major road was not ready, a park statement said.

A new reopening date was not announced for the route, which was hit by flash floods and massive debris flows on Aug. 5.

State Route 178, which connects to Death Valley from State Route 127, is expected to remain closed for several more weeks, the park said.

In the Mojave National Preserve, the monsoonal rains have “reawakened flora and fauna,” according to a press release.

The preserve said a July 30 deluge dumped 6 inches of rain in some areas of the park, where average August rainfall is typically 1.2 inches.

August is usually characterized by muted landscapes and arid conditions, but now, mild temperatures and vibrant green foliage have led to more wildlife sightings.

“White-lined Sphinx moths, California patch butterflies, horned lizards, rabbits, desert tortoise and bighorn sheep have been frequently observed by park staff over the last few weeks,” the park said.

All of the preserve's paved roads were closed for nearly two weeks after the flood. Now, North Kelbaker Road, between Kelso Depot and Baker, remains closed and will likely take months to repair, the preserve said.

Additionally, Zzyzx Road to the California State University Desert Studies Center is still closed due to severely undercut pavement.

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