A Photo Essay, Part 5: South of Eagle Mountain.
This Part covers the distance from just below Eagle Mountain to and through Tecopah Valley to where the river turns west toward Death Valley, as shown on these two overlapping satellite image maps that show two different scales for the Tecopah Valley:
SOUTH OF EAGLE MOUNTAIN
After leaving Amargosa valley and its distinctive southern boundary marker, Eagle Mountain, the river is very dry.
This dry condition lasts for about 20 miles:
Markers give warning of depth in case of a flash flood:
It is not until just a mile north of Shoshone that the river bed sees heavy vegetation, relatable to seeps on the sides of the drainage:
The seepage area just uphill from this vegetated river bottom sports dense stands of tall grasses:
The trees in the background of the above photo mark the beginning of the town of Shoshone, which is where we observe the river next.
AROUND SHOSHONE (TECOPAH VALLEY)
Tecopah Valley is an interesting place, today, but during the last ica age was probably the home of much more seepage with shallow wetlands around its edges. This painting on the side of the Shoshone post office is an artists conception of Lake Tecopah during an ice age, and except for the lake perhaps having a bit more water in it than is warranted, it is probably a pretty good vision of what a pleasant place this valley was and will be again (about 80% of time --if we think in terms of a million years before or after ourselves-- is spent in wetter climatic conditions than we are presently experiencing).
The lady in the picture is my 83-year young mother, the one who is a good enough sport to take me on these expeditions on our Sunday "sucky-rides" (she enjoys these visits to the land before time ["oer-tijd" as she says it in Dutch], really!):
Shoshone is the largest of the two towns in the valley, and lies at its northern end. It is spring and seep fed, and the river at Shoshone is very well vegetated, drying up again as it enters the central valley. It is fed water again towards the south of the valley as will be shown in the next section.
This is what Shoshsone looks like (note the seep-wetlands related layered cilica/gypsum/sand rock formations in the background and the vegetation in the drainages):
Just west of town is a typical example of a seep area, another enigmatic plot of tall grass and reeds surrounded by dry rock:
And, if you drive from Shoshone to Pahrump, you cross the Amargosa River, dry, but well vegetated here because of the upstream donations from the many large seep areas:
That the river has flooding potential in this area is hinted at by this gauging sign at the road crossing:
Toward the south, the river drainage supports vegetation for about another quarter mile:
SOUTH TECOPAH VALLEY
South of Tecopah, the river is dry with sparse vegetation, again. The next picture looks north from the road to the hot-springs village of Tecopah and shows the river just before reaching an area of extensive seeps. The water? The picture was taken one day after a winter rain:
The seep areas that the river flows through look like this. That is salt on the ground, of course, not snow. A shallow lake exists to the left of this photo, as may be seen by some standing water on the far left:
The lake looks like this, today, and was likely larger during the last ice age. It did not, as supposed at one time, reach up to and over the badlands at the edges of the valley, however. Those badlands are the result of evaporating seepage and shallow marshes leaving behind a layered array of sediment composed of calcium carbonate (calcite), calcium sulfate (gypsum), and silica (sand):
Looking up and east from the lake area, Tecopah, the hot springs village, looks like this:
But this is not the only area where seeps and springs donate water to the Amargosa River. Behind the hills in the photo above are several sizable springs pouring out waters from the regional deep limestone rock (carbonate) aquifer:
We will follow this trail of water downstream (to the southwest) for a while, the contrast in vegetation where there is water and where there is not is quite striking:
Towards town (the village is on the other side of the hill to the right), the water from this spring supports a well-vegetated Arabian horse ranch, on the ridge beside the spring-fed vegetation:
Just a bit further downstream, in the distance one can see the trace of the Amargosa River in its canyon, at the bottom of the ridge defining the boundary of the valley:
The river leaves Tecopah Valley with its spring and seep donations through a real canyon. We did not take our little car onto the dirt road to this tempting destination, however:
On its way to its canyon, the river shows off its rich load, donated by springs and seeps to the north and east (vegetation is luxuriant, but remember that these are Winter pictures!):
In one place, water is actually visible!
The above two pictures were taken from the highway that bypasses the canyon and again intercepts the river after it has exited the canyon and begun its westward turn. The canyon lies under the first ridge shown in this picture, looking into the southern end of Tecopah valley:
MAKING THE WESTWARD TURN
After emerging from its canyon, it flows past some sizable sand dunes south of Tecopah Valley, as it makes its turn to the west under the road from Shoshone to Baker:
The Amargosa River flows the west in the photo below, and will turn north at the base of the low mountains ahead where, if this were an ice age, it would be joined by the Mojave River. In the present climate, however, the most it can hope for is a thunderstorm-swollen Salt Creek to meet it at that juncture for its final northward run into Death Valley.
We next pick up the river after it has entered Death Valley.
Go to first Amargosa River page: Orientation
Go to second Amargosa River page: Helpers
Go to third Amargosa River page: Northern Reach
Go to fourth Amargosa River page: Amargosa Valley
CURRENT -- Go tofifth Amargosa River page: South of Eagle Mountain
NEXT -- Go to sixth Amargosa River page: In Death Valley