The desert landscape can appear stark and empty, as if nothing is living here. When actually it is the opposite, the desert ecosystem is full of life! The desert can also appear very hardy due to the extreme conditions, but the desert plants, animals and geology are actually very fragile.
Death Valley is a park that is over 91% federally designated wilderness. This area of non-mechanized travel begins in most places, just 50 feet from the designated roads. While traveling in Death Valley, there is NO DRIVING PERMITTED OFF OF DESIGNATED ROADS. This means you must stay to the paved and dirt roads and park adjacent to the road, on the shoulder.
Driving on the desert landscape creates long lasting scars. The soil that has taken many years to settle, erode, react to water, and create the ecosystem that you see today, becomes impacted by the disturbance. In wetter environments, tire tracks and soil disturbance can fade away more quickly. But the arid nature of the desert means that those tracks will be present for a long time. Think about the wagon travelers of the mid-1800's- the tracks can still be found in the desert southwest over 150 years later!
In addition to creating scars, the soil is a fragile, small ecosystem. There are tiny plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi that live in very specific conditions. Disrupting these areas causes permanent damage to these living creatures.
Last updated: August 11, 2018