Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

Lake Manly

Lake Manly was a large freshwater lake which filled the Death Valley (United States) basin before the area's climate became dry at the end of the last ice age. Lake Manly receded due to increased evaporation, and to isolation from the Colorado River system, to which it was once connected. At its greatest extent Lake Manly was roughly 80 miles long and 800 feet deep.

As Lake Manly evaporated to the surface of Death Valley, it left a remarkable legacy. Under the surface of Death Valley is one of the world's largest underground reservoirs (aquifers). Being fed by the Amargosa River and Salt Creek, this aquifer is barely visible above ground at Badwater, the lowest point in the valley (282 feet below sea level).

Shoreline Butte has easy-to-see weak shorelines on it called strandlines that were formed by wave action from Lake Manly[1]. These features were created by stands of the lake, which would change its depth over time and also cause slight changes in climate. The conditions under which this lake existed are called pluvial by geologists instead of glacial because glaciers did not directly touch Death Valley - but the meltwater from the glaciers and the cooler and wetter climate of the time affected the valley. Approximately 8000 feet (about 2500 m) of gravel, sand, and mud overlay the bedrock of the valley floor.

In 2005, severe flooding resulted in Lake Manly reappearing on a large scale[2]. Over a hundred square miles were covered by the lake, allowing some tourists and park rangers to become probably the only humans to canoe across Death Valley. The lake was about two feet at its deepest point. It evaporated quickly, leaving behind a mud-salt mixture.

Lake Manly is named in honor of William L. Manly, who was among the original Death Valley party in 1849. Manly and a companion walked out of Death Valley to the Los Angeles area, where he found help and returned to Death Valley to assist the rest of the party out. His autobiography is Death Valley in '49, which he wrote later in life.

By Mail
Death Valley National Park
P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

By Phone
Visitor Information
(760) 786-3200

Commercial Permits
(760) 786-3241

By Fax
(760) 786-3283