Death Valley NP’s Owlshead Mountains

I spent the last couple of days in southern Death Valley NP’s Owlshead Mountains with David Lamfrom (photo: David is on the left, I’m on the right), who is the California Desert Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). Part of this area is currently managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and with passage of the 2010 Desert Protection Act, this stunning landscape will transfer to the National Park Service to receive protection in perpetuity. David Lamfrom and Mike Cipra, NPCA’s California Desert Program Manager (along with their determined coalition) have worked diligently with local communities and community leaders to help garner support for passage of the Act. I humbly bow before these individuals; they are tremendously passionate about their work, their concern for these beautiful places, and their desire to see them forever protected. Without guys like David and Mike, there would be many less victories for the California desert, and the places I cherish and love might be lost.

In the photo above, David and I are seen standing on a high point in the Owlshead Mountains, located at the far southern end of Death Valley National Park, and capping the southern end of Death Valley proper. This is an incredibly remote area that receives little to no visitation. David and I ascended the highest summit of the range yesterday, only to discover that hardly one party summits this mountain each year. My guess is that other high points in the range may have never seen a human footprint.

This region is endowed with vast unfettered views in any direction: no signs of humans, roads, or development. The valleys are wide, the peaks high, and as with Death Valley on the whole, the scale and relief are tremendous. There are lush springs, the flowing Amargosa River, sand dune complexes, and as of this moment, trillions of developing wildflowers pushing their petals towards the sun. The region is awash in a sea of green waiting for warmth to send up flowers.

I believe that the coming weeks will provide a very rare if not once-in-a-lifetime photographic opportunity to explore a pristine and under-visited wonderland while it experiences a peak wildflower bloom. Due to these unique conditions, I am strongly considering offering an “emergency” photographic tour to the region. This tour will include a non-technical ascent of a remote and rarely climbed desert peak; a visit to a lush desert spring alive with tule grasses, large ponds, and waterfowl; visits to a remote dune complex; easy hikes in colorful and eroded canyons, and an overall incredible and unrepeatable experience. There are few places in the California desert where one can see for nearly 100 miles in any direction, and even fewer places where one can stand on a desert peak and look toward the snow-capped Sierra Nevada.

I am considering the dates of March 25 through March 28 (four days total). Car-camping is mandatory (nearest lodging is many miles and hours distant) and there are NO bathrooms or conveniences available of ANY sort. I will limit participation to four participants who are in good physical fitness and can walk up to six miles per day. I have loaner camping equipment available for those who may arrive by airplane. If you seek a unique and rare opportunity in one of the most stunning corners of the California desert, please indicate your interest by way of reply. I will be out for the next three days teaching private workshops, but will address any questions and provide more information upon my return.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

3 thoughts on “Death Valley NP’s Owlshead Mountains

  1. Pingback: 2010 California Desert Wildflower Prognostications « Michael E. Gordon Photography

  2. I will be coming to this area the week after your scheduled dates.
    I was wondering, is this area easily accesible for people with 2wd?
    I have never been to this part of death valley before. I will traveling with my child, so we won’t be doing any peak bagging, just wildflower hunting and light hiking.

    I was so sad to hear about the mustard in Anza Borego in your other post. What a huge shame to loose that wonder of nature. I have such joyous memories of being there for a banner wildflower season.

  3. Hi Bonnie: thank you for commenting. I cannot encourage you to visit this area with only 2WD, no support vehicle, and/or no guide. It is remote, untraveled, and there are obstacles for 2WD (especially with inexperienced drivers). In August 2009, a tragic death occurred in the Owlshead’s when a mother and child became stranded after their vehicle got stuck:
    Granted, there are HUGE temperature differences between March and August, but the remoteness and lack of cell signal remains the same.

    You may want to pay attention to this resource for DVNP wildflower reports:

    I hope you have a great trip, Bonnie!

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