News Release

Kayaking and other boating no longer allowed

Brown mud and white salt flats extend to distant mountains.
People were able to launch kayaks 10 feet from the road at this location until February 28. This photo, taken March 2, shows how far away from the road the lake moved during the windstorm.

NPS/Abby Wines

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News Release Date: March 4, 2024

Contact: Abby Wines, 760-786-3221

Contact: Nichole Andler, 760-786-3279

Contact: Jennette Jurado, 760-786-3289

DEATH VALLEY, Calif. – Weather has created a new surprise in Death Valley National Park: a traveling lake. Sustained high winds blew Lake Manly about two miles north. The winds also sped up evaporation, lowering the water level. To protect natural resources, the National Park Service no longer allows people to boat on the shallow lake.

“It was amazing to see an entire lake migrate!” said Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “But now the water is drying up, leaving wide mudflats. People were walking a long way, sometimes dragging their boats. This leaves footprints and drag marks that will likely be visible for years. This left us with no choice but to curtail boating on historic Lake Manly at this time.”

In normal years, people see miles of salt flats at Badwater Basin. In some areas, the salt is fractured and uplifted into photogenic polygon shapes.

Every few years there is enough rain to cover the salt flat and create a temporary lake, informally known as Lake Manly. Usually, it is only a couple inches deep. Lake Manly returned after the remnants of Hurricane Hilary brought 2.2 inches of rain in August. The lake slowly shrunk until an atmospheric river brought another 1.5 inches in early February.  For almost a month, people had a rare opportunity to kayak on Lake Manly, which was six miles long, three miles wide, and one foot deep.

Things changed February 29 through March 2. Forty mile per hour winds pushed the water two miles to the north. The lake spread out to cover more area, but at a shallower depth. The winds and increased surface area increased evaporation. A place that people had launched boats 10 feet from the road turned into a salty mud flat.

When the winds stopped, the water slowly sloshed back to its original lakebed. What is left is shallower and muddier than it was before.

Due to the changed conditions, the National Park Service no longer allows people to attempt to boat on Lake Manly. Doing so would involve walking through mud, leaving footprints in the mud flat. These footprints or boat drag marks will likely stay as scars on the landscape until the next time Lake Manly returns.

“Visitors for the next few years would prefer to see the natural polygon designs in the salt, rather than hard-crusted footprints and deep boat drag marks,” said Reynolds.  

People are encouraged to walk out into the lake (or onto the salt flat) from the Badwater Basin parking lot, staying on already-compacted surfaces.

More information is at

View from a mountain looking down at a wide, flat valley with a brown lake in it.
Photo taken March 4, 2024 from Dantes View looking down at Badwater Basin. Lake Manly has returned to the pre-wind location, but is now very brown due to mud.

NPS/John Hallett

Last updated: March 4, 2024

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