Due to Death Valley National Park policy changes, we no longer have this adopt-a-trail.
This page is maintained for informational purposes only.
Part of the charm of this area is its isolation. There are no services in Saline or Eureka Valley. The Saline Valley Road is 100 miles between Highway 395 in Big Pine and State Route 190. Not all the roads in this area are 4WD, but weather can quickly change the road conditions. Summer temperatures can be extreme and winter storms can quickly isolate the backcountry adventurer from the main highway. Before you visit this area always check weather and road conditions. For the first time visitor, check out our links at the bottom of this page for additional resources to help in planning your first trip.
Adopt-a-Trail History: Our first Adopt-a-Trail agreement for the Eureka/Saline Corridor was signed on 8/22/1985 between us and the local BLM office, with Patricia McLean being the Area Manager.
The road was described as follows: “The purpose of this Cooperative Management Agreement is to provide for the maintenance of an existing 4-wheel drive 26 mile route. The route connects the Upper Warm Springs in Saline Valley with the Eureka Sand Dunes in Eureka Valley and is on land administered by the BLM. It has historically been used by a variety of public land users for recreation, scenic, and access purposes. It is the only route directly connecting the two valleys.”
On October 31, 1994, when Congress passed the 1994 Desert Protection Act by one vote, both Eureka Valley and most of Saline Valley became a part of the new designated Death Valley National Park (from a National Monument). The corridor was in jeopardy of possibly being closed, so we went to the Park Service and proposed that we go into an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) for the continued upkeep of the Eureka/Saline Corridor. The agreement was signed by Mary Grimsley, our corresponding secretary and then Park Superintendent Richard Martin on October 11, 1995. It has no ending date, only that:
“This MOU may be terminated upon breach of any of the conditions herein at the discretion of the Superintendent, Death Valley National Park. In addition, either Party may terminate the MOU by providing sixty (60) days written notice to the other.”
Eureka Valley: Surrounded by the Sylvania Mountains and the Last Chance Range to the east, by the Inyo Mountains and the Saline Range to the west, Eureka Valley is roughly 27 miles in length. The low point is at 2870 feet above sea level, with the valley’s weather not as extreme as Death Valley’s, due to the higher elevation and more northern location. Summer temperatures can still reach well into the 100’s.
The Eureka Dunes towering nearly 700 feet above the valley floor are among the tallest sand dunes in the Northern Hemisphere. The dunes are formed because of the valley’s unique hourglass shape. Sand blows in from the northern end of Eureka Valley (and sometimes from Saline Valley), forcing the wind to swirl and rise above the dunes, depositing the sand. The contrast between the sand and the bands of the Last Chance Range are stunning. Home to over 50 species of plants, several are endemic to these sands, including the rare Eureka Evening Primrose which blooms only in the spring after a wet winter. Dozens of species of birds and mammals, nine species of reptiles, countless species of insects, including four endemic beetles, inhabit the dunes. One of the unique features of the Eureka Dunes is that they are one of the very few singing dunes in North America. Under the right circumstances, a low humming vibration is produced, compared to the sound of a distant airplane or bass viol. The dunes cover an oblong area of about 3.5 miles by nearly 2 miles, with slopes exceeding 45% at places. You can walk out on the dunes and the NPS has a small primitive campground area at the end of the dunes.
Steel Pass: One of the most lonely backcountry roads that you are likely to find in the Death Valley area is the cross-country route between Eureka Valley and Saline Valley. Steel Pass at an elevation of 5,091 feet is supposedly named after a steel post that once stood here. A two-pound coffee can holds a register in which people passing through can leave their names and comments. Near this area can be found the mysterious Marble Bath. From Steel Pass it is about 12 rough miles twisting and winding through the boulder-filled alluvium to Lower Warm Springs in Saline Valley. Along this stretch of road between Steel Pass and Upper Warm Springs is one of the best cactus gardens in the DVNP of cottontop barrels, beavertail and calico hedgehog cacti growing in the alluvial fans.
Saline Valley: The original name was Salinas Valley, given by the Wheeler Survey in 1871. Saline, properly pronounced “suh-LEEN”, is a unique area and one of the most remote spots in California. The floor of Saline Valley is more than 1,000 feet higher than that of Death Valley, but because the valley is enclosed on the north and south as well as the east and west, it can be as hot as Death Valley in the summer. The lowest point is 1060 feet above sea level at Saline Valley Salt Lake. The valley is roughly 27 miles long covering more than 400 square miles, sandwiched between the Saline Range and the Last Chance Range to the east, and the Inyo Mountains to the West.
Saline Valley is an area rich in natural and cultural history, interesting geologic features and important wildlife habitat. The wooden tramway towers of the Saline Valley Salt Company can still be seen. The tram was a technological masterpiece at the time, and both the salt works and tram were entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The Saline Valley Marsh with its fresh water and dense groves of mesquite trees is a lush area where a large permanent population of Shoshone and Paiute once lived. There are extensive archeological sites in this area and it is against the law to remove any relics or to disturb any sites. At least 124 spices of birds had been sighted at the marsh, and the water is home to the red-spotted toad. Other areas of interest in Saline Valley area is the Conn Trudo Borax Works ruins, the Big Silver Mine, Snowflake Talc Mine, Saline Valley Dunes and a B-24 wreck site and the springs. The pristine Saline Valley Dunes cover an area of about 2.2 miles and are not very high, but is one of the most beautiful areas in the valley.
The springs consist of three sites; the Lower Warm Springs, Palm Springs and Upper Warm Springs. A real oasis in the desert complete with palm trees and grass, this area is popular for those seeking isolation. Camping is allowed, but be warned this area is “clothing optional”. Upper Warm Springs years ago was declared by the government as a pup fish refuge and a chain link was built around it to protect the fish and to keep the burros out. The springs were stocked with the pup fish, but it was not successful because of the water’s temperature.
Special thanks to: MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) information provided by Gear Grinders Corresponding Secretary, Mary Grimsley. Pictures provided by Gear Grinder Pamela Fellows. And finally thanks to all the Gear Grinders that have volunteered countless hours in the past to maintain the Saline/Eureka Corridor Adopt-a-Trail. The Gear Grinders 4WD Club maintains this road with pride ensuring access for ALL to enjoy this unique and interesting back country area.
- Death Valley National Park Official site. for information on planning your trip, history, culture and contact information. Map on this page is an excerpt from Death Valley National Park Map, a general visitor’s map not to be used for backcountry travel. Information for better detailed maps for exploring the backcountry of Death Valley National Park can be found on their website.
- The Maturango Museum, located in Ridgecrest, California offers Death Valley Tourist information. Admission is free to the museum store and visitor’s center where they have free maps, and lots of good tourist information. Books, videos and maps are also for sale.
- “Hiking Death Valley: A Guide to its Natural Wonders and Mining Past”, by Michel Digonnet. Mainly a guide book for hikers, this book is a must for the Death Valley backcountry explorer. Illustrated with topographic maps, this book describes the history, geology, flora and fauna of the area, with detailed history of over 60 mines, ghost towns, camps and other historic sites.
- “Death Valley SUV Trails”, by Roger Mitchell. 4WD Guide to 46 interesting back-country excursions in the Death Valley Region. Mitchell describes in great detail what sights and features you are likely to see along these back roads, including flora, fauna, geology, history, and mining. Mitchell’s books can be found at his website Track and Trail Publications.
- “Guide to the Remote and Mysterious Saline Valley”, by Bill Mann. A must guide book for the first time visitor to Saline Valley and area. GPS coordinates for all sites listed, color photographs, vehicle requirements and interesting trivia and facts.
- Death Valley.com: offers local information on Death Valley and Panamint Springs Resort. This site also offers the popular Death Valley Talk, a forum to discuss the Death Valley area.
- Death-Valley.net: An on-line community to meet up with others who want to discuss Death Valley and its surrounding areas.