This is Part 1 of a 5-part series of posts entitled, The Wonders of Willow Creek. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for reading! To read the next post in this series, CLICK THIS LINK.
From My Eyeballs and Feet
The Amargosa River is sucked through a straw, from its headwaters in Nevada, to Badwater Basin, in California’s Death Valley. This “straw” is the confines of an underground waterway. However there are a few places where the straw springs a leak, and the river briefly emerges from its subterranean sluice, exposing its bitter waters to the open air.
One of these leaks runs along a seam near Tecopa Hot Springs, California. I wrote about the Amargosa River, and the amazing valley it flows under, in a series of posts last winter. And I made mention of this 20-mile stretch of above-ground river.
But I must confess to a few errors. Much of my information was derived from Wikipedia. Who knew that Wiki could be inaccurate? Why, I thought it was an infallible research tool.
But now I’ve completed additional research, and without Wiki’s help. This time my research tools were the eyeballs in my head and the feet on my ankles. I actually traveled to that ribbon of visible river, ogled it, tramped its banks, and felt its forceful flow between my fingers.
In my series of posts last winter, I reported that the Amargosa River dives below the surface, then passes Tecopa Hot Springs. Actually, Tecopa Hot Springs is where it rises above the surface. Here, the river gurgles up to form a variety of hot springs, reed-choked marshes, and the pond-sized, Grimshaw Lake.
Downslope of these hydrous features, the river begins flowing like a trickle of sweat, dripping under the Old Spanish Trail Highway, and wending southeast through Amargosa Wash. While it wends, it swells larger and larger, as more and more water wicks to the surface.
About four or five miles downstream from Tecopa Hot Springs, at the location of an old, abandoned railroad siding, the Amargosa is fed by Willow Creek. And at the confluence of this river and this creek, the waters bend south-by-southwest, and pour into Amargosa Canyon. They race toward the Dumont Dunes, where the earth once again swallows the crystal fluid up. All-told, this above-ground portion of the river is about 10 miles long, as the crow flies.
But actually, rivers and crows rarely travel in a straight line. So it’s likely that the winding, above-ground course of the Amargosa really is about 20 miles long, as I’ve previously reported.
Last winter I also reported that the Amargosa slurps up Willow Creek, in Death Valley National Park. But that’s not so. What my eyeballs and feet discovered, was that Willow Creek is located about 10 miles to the east of the park. How could I be so wrong? This creek is the most significant tributary to the Amargosa River, after Ash Meadows, about 35 miles upstream. Damn you, Wiki! (shaking my fist)
Willow Creek begins as a verdant, mesquite and tree-choked artesian spring, located about two miles upstream from its confluence with the Amargosa River, and about 4 miles southeast of Tecopa. A lot has happened at this oasis, and a lot still goes on here. That’s because in the desert, the rare springs, watering holes, and above-ground rivers, are where most of the action can be found. This includes both human and animal action.
In my posts last winter, I barely mentioned Willow Spring, doing it no justice for all the footsteps, perspiration, and desert dreaming that have been produced here, in its rich history of human activity. And I also ignored its many awesome and breathtaking natural wonders.
My excuse is that I ignored them because I was ignorant of them. I feel sheepish. But now I know. I know about Willow Creek, I know about China Ranch, and I discovered the China Ranch Loop Trail. I found it to be one of the most beautiful desert hikes I’ve ever scuffed my feet upon.
Stay tuned. This series of posts will illuminate the discoveries I made with my eyeballs and feet, and show off the wonders of Willow Creek, while getting us even more acquainted with the amazing Amargosa Valley.