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Contact: Laura Steele / Chief Ranger, 575-236-1426
On August 20, a flash flood occurred in the park with 20 foot deep water flowing across sections of the main road, causing visitors and staff to shelter in place at the visitor center.
At 2 pm, as a result of thunderstorm activity in the park, rangers began the process of evacuating visitors from the park and closed inbound traffic. The National Weather Service contacted the park at 2:24 pm to report a flash flood warning for Walnut Canyon, the only access to the visitor center and cavern. By 3:10 pm, water began pooling in the Walnut Canyon wash, and the flash flood began flowing over the park road at 3:15 pm. About 200 visitors and park staff remained safely at the visitor center for about nine hours until the water receded and the road was cleared of debris.
While visitors remained at the visitor center, rangers ensured they were kept up-to-date on the situation. In addition, ranger programs and activities were provided to visitors to help with the long wait until the road reopened. The park’s concessions operator reopened to make food available to visitors.
During the evacuation, rangers and personnel from Eddy County Fire & Rescue and New Mexico State Police were stationed at the water crossings to monitor and ensure visitors safely crossed these sections of the road. By 11:53 pm, all visitors and staff were evacuated from the park.
Every year the monsoon season (mid-June through September) brings the primary precipitation to the area. Thunderstorms are common during this time and flash flooding of washes can occur rapidly in a manner of minutes, even in areas where rain is not occurring.
Continual assessments of conditions at the park are still being conducted. Please check the Carlsbad Caverns National Park website and social media pages for updates on status of park operations.
Last updated: August 25, 2022