Photographer Captures Rare Photos of Death Valley After Tropical Storm

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes with Water by Craig McGowan

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

When Australian landscape photographer Craig McGowan made a trip to the United States this autumn, he'd hoped to visit Death Valley. So, he was disheartened to learn that the National Park had been closed to the public in August following the aftermath of Tropical Storm Hilary—which had flooded the dessert valley and caused widespread destruction. However, to McGowan's surprise, with just a week left in his trip, the park opened its gates once again.

This allowed McGowan to make the journey to California's Death Valley and photograph it in exceedingly rare conditions, as the effects of the large rainfall were still visible. Not only were there large pools of water in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, but the Badwater Basin was filled with a temporary lake.

The weather conditions took McGowan by surprise, as he assumed that he would be wandering into a hot and dry landscape. But, he knew from experience that you can never be too sure what nature has in store for you. “I was surprised how green and how much vegetation there was in Death Valley,” he tells My Modern Met. “Significantly, of course, the unusual amounts of water sitting in the sand dunes and the flooded Badwater Basin made the visit somewhat unique.”

All told, McGowan took over a thousand photos of the scenic landscape. The images show the unique conditions while also focusing on the remote nature of the location. More than a million people visit the park annually. However, McGowan's fresh take on the scenery allows us to focus on its beauty without distraction. And, thanks to the timing of his visit, his images also serve as important documentation of the aftermath of a storm.

Australian landscape photographer Craig McGowan recently ventured to California's Death Valley National Park.

Craig McGowan in Death Valley


Road to Death Valley by Craig McGowan

Road into Death Valley

The park had been closed since August when Tropical Storm Hilary caused extensive damage and flooding.

Aerial view of Death Valley by Craig McGowan

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

People in Death Valley by Craig McGowan

Badwater Basin

Death Valley by Craig McGowan

Afternoon Death Valley Storm

Some of the rainfall remains, creating bodies of water where it is usually dry.

Death Valley by Craig McGowan

Badwater Basin

Death Valley by Craig McGowan

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Death Valley by Craig McGowan

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Craig McGowan: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Craig McGowan.

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Colorful 225-Million-Year-Old Fossils Are Just One Highlight of This Stunning National Park

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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