Watch Death Valley’s Rapid Deterioration After 5 Weeks Without Park Rangers in This Disturbing Time-Lapse

Feb 4, 2019

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On Jan. 25, the longest government shutdown in the history of the nation came to an end. But for those people and places affected, the recovery has just begun.

Officials at Death Valley National Park posted a time-lapse video to the park’s Facebook page to underline just how much work must be done to restore the parkland. The clip shows park rangers cleaning a restroom for two hours, removing trash and human filth from the facility to reopen the park to visitors.

DEATH VALLEY, CA – Death Valley National Park announced today that some recently closed areas of the park will once again be accessible to visitors in the coming days. Some visitor services, including campgrounds and the Stovepipe Wells Contact Station, will also reopen using revenue generated by recreation fees. Visitors should go to the park website at while planning their trip to get the latest information on accessibility and available services.Areas that have been recently closed but that are or will be accessible to park visitors include: • Dantes View, Artists Drive, Natural Bridge, Harmony Borax Works and Mustard Canyon, Salt Creek, Keane Wonder Mine, Mesquite Sand Dunes, and Historic Stovepipe Wells Roads. Because of the distances and complexities involved and unknown nature of all issues, the opening of these sites may take a week or longer. Scotty’s Castle remains closed due to flood damage. Mosaic Canyon Road remains closed in association with water utility work for Stovepipe Wells Village. Upper and Lower Wildrose Roads are closed due to snow and ice.National Park Service officials have determined that by using Federal Land and Recreation Enhancement funds to immediately bring back park maintenance crews to clean restrooms, remove trash, and remove health and safety risks park staff will be able to restore accessibility to the park.Through generous donations from the Death Valley Natural History Association, the Furnace Creek Visitor Center will remain open. Entrance fees and camping fees will not be collected and ranger programs will not be offered.“We greatly appreciate the generous contributions of park partners who have provided support during the lapse in appropriations,” said park superintendent Reynolds. “Their efforts have contributed significantly to our ability to maintain access and limited services to Death Valley National Park.”For updates on the shutdown, please visit Valley National Park is the homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone and preserves natural and cultural resources, exceptional wilderness, scenery, and learning experiences within the nation’s largest conserved desert landscape and some of the most extreme climate and topographic conditions on the planet. About two-thirds of the park was originally designated as Death Valley National Monument in 1933. Today the park is enjoyed by about 1,300,000 people per year. The park is 3,400,000 acres – nearly as large as the state of Connecticut. Learn more at NPS Video: 2 hour time lapse of restroom being cleaned by rangers for opening.

Posted by Death Valley National Park on Wednesday, January 16, 2019

With park workers furloughed during the shutdown, there was no one available to pump the park’s toilets — and at least half a ton of human waste was found outside the restrooms, according to News 3, Las Vegas. Park spokesperson Abby Wines described that as “unusual.”

Tourists also wreaked havoc around the park. Wines said that, in an attempt to enter locked bathrooms, people caused “extensive damage to the doors.” Wines told News 3 that this vandalism is especially unfortunate, as one of the two damaged restrooms was considered a historic structure.

Parkgoers also went off-roading through the park, which is illegal and extremely destructive to the desert valley.

“A lot of the landscape around here consists of a thin hard crust [that] covers a soft, silty soil,” Wines told News3. That means the trenches carved by car tires could remain for many years, if not restored.

Wildlife in Death Valley National Park was also harmed by the lack of supervision during the shutdown. According to News 3, a coyote had to be euthanized after he became too comfortable begging humans for food — an acquired taste from feasting on overflowing garbage for more than a month.

Death Valley is just one of the national parks that suffered significantly during the shutdown. Joshua Tree, for example, may need up to 300 years to recover from the human abuse endured while rangers were furloughed. 

Featured image by Francesca Tosolini/Unsplash.

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