Rain Events and Flash Floods

Water standing on a road
Flood on Keys View Road

NPS / Anna Marini

Though the desert is not known for its rain, desert storms and flooding can be deadly. The intensity of rain events in Joshua Tree can range from small pooling on roads and trails to dangerous flash floods. Flash floods are a sudden increase in the depth and speed of water and can occur in previously bone dry areas, including canyons, trails, roads, and washes. Floodwaters can carry large debris like tree trunks and boulders. Flash floods can occur at any time in Joshua Tree National Park and are most common in the late summer and early fall.

 
Water running over rocks
Temporary waterfall in Rattlesnake Canyon after a major rain event.

NPS / Hannah Schwalbe

Flash Floods

  • Flash floods are unpredictable and can be deadly
  • Canyons and washes are particularly dangerous
  • You can’t outrun a flash flood
  • Flash floods can happen with sunny skies overhead
 
Rain clouds over a sign that reads Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center

NPS / Evan Heck

Before Your Visit

  • Check the weather forecast or stop by a visitor center for a forecast
  • Watch for changing weather and a buildup of clouds
  • Consider changing your plans if adverse weather is expected
  • Have a plan and a map of the park in case you encounter moving water. Be familiar with all of the park exits so you know your options
  • Prepare a safety kit for your car and hiking pack, which should include plenty of extra food, water, and warm clothes
  • Leave an itinerary with a friend or family member and check in when you have cell service. Do not expect cell service within the park
 
water and debris on a road with two cars stopped in the background.
Flooding and debris on Park Boulevard near the park's Twentynine Palms Entrance.

NPS / Brad Sutton

Turn Around, Don't Drown

  • Stay out of the water. Do not attempt to cross or enter moving water
  • Rushing water is incredibly powerful. A few inches of rapidly moving water can move a car or knock you off your feet
  • Stay flexible and be prepared to change your plans if there is a potential for flooding. Turn around, don't drown
  • Flash floods happen quickly, so react quickly. Head for higher ground immediately
  • Be patient, flooding is dangerous, but may subside within a matter of hours
 
A rain cloud over distant mountains

NPS / Brad Sutton

Camping During a Storm

  • Camping during a storm can be dangerous, never underestimate the elements
  • Consider changing your plans if rain, high wind, or lightning is forecasted during your camping trip
  • Campgrounds may flood during extreme rain events
  • If there is potential for rain, do not camp in a wash or low terrain either in the backcountry or in campgrounds. A wash is typically a low-lying sandy area that can become a temporary river during and after rain
 
Signs and saw horses closing a road, signs say "Authorized Vehicles Only", "Do Not Enter", "Closed", and "Flooded"
Dirt roads can be prone to flooding and water damage. Respect closure signs.

NPS / Hannah Schwalbe

Closures and Damage

Floods and rain events can cause significant damage to park infrastructure, including roads and trails. Respect closures during and after rain events. Driving on wet dirt roads can increase the damage. Check current conditions for park closures.

Hikers should be prepared to hike through water and mud after rain events. Do not contribute to social trails and vegetation damage by creating a new path to avoid walking through mud and pools of water.

Last updated: January 4, 2022

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Mailing Address:

74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms , CA 92277-3597

Phone:

760 367-5500

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