Video shows Death Valley destruction, rescue of marooned travelers after heavy rains

Flood damage at Mud Canyon Road off of Highway 190 following the storm in early August 2022.

Flood damage at Mud Canyon Road off of Highway 190 following the storm in early August 2022.

Courtesy of NPS

A video from car enthusiast Matt Brown posted last week on his YouTube channel depicts the destruction on the roads through California's Death Valley National Park, showing the rescue of stranded tourists along the way, following the severe rain and flooding in the park Aug. 5.?

The video blogger and automotive engineer was traveling from Los Angeles to Wendover, Utah, with a passenger in a Toyota 4Runner and decided to take a “shortcut” through Death Valley following near-record breaking rainfall just days prior.

While passing through Towne Pass along state Highway 190, Brown began noticing rough conditions, with fallen debris and rocks scattered along the roadway. The National Park Service announced Aug. 5 that all roads into and out of Death Valley National Park were closed. A spokesperson with the park service told SFGATE that detour signs began to go up along roads on Aug. 5.

In the clip, Brown admitted that he doesn't pay attention to the news. He said he drove through Death Valley unaware that an unprecedented rainstorm had just occurred. He went to explain that he saw no closed road signs posted on the highway.

“I should note here that we did not come across any road closed signs nor any indication that the road was impassable,” he said in the video. “Even Google Maps didn’t say anything about it.”

Google Maps currently has flagged the highway as “temporarily closed,” but it's not clear when that alert was added.

Brown then explains how he approached a group of stranded tourists from Italy who were standing outside of their car, which was stuck in the mud. “We pulled out the winch and dragged them out,” he said. “They had been stranded for a while and were very happy to be free.”

While driving near the nadir of the valley, Brown approached a washed out section of the roadway that was completely submerged in water. “We came across a river where there was not supposed to be a river,” he said.?

A German family in another 4Runner approached the unexpected river and Brown gave the driver advice for safe passage. He’d go on to assist two more European tourists before reaching the eastern edge of Death Valley and heading away from the destruction.?

“We made it through, although I very much would not recommend it,” Brown admitted in the video. “If I would have known how bad it was I would have not tried it. Death Valley in August is deadly hot. If we had broken down, we would have been two more people in need of saving.”

The National Park Service advises always checking ahead before visiting a park to be aware of any possible dangers and to be adequately prepared.

“Research your park’s website or call the park to find out what risks and hazards are associated with your activity (e.g. inclement weather, wildlife, swift water, uneven steps),” the park service website says, “so you can prepare for them before you go on your adventure.”

The reopening of state Route 190 is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20.