The Yucca Mt. & Amargosa River Watershed

While most people think of Yucca Mountain as being in Nevada, few realize that it is only 17 miles from the California border. All surface water draining from the region flows south to California, and deeper aquifers, while still poorly understood, seem to drain toward California as well.

The Amargosa River is the third largest river in the western U.S. The watershed area surrounds Yucca Mountain, with many arms flowing from deep within the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. The river flows south on both sides of Eagle Mt. below Death Valley Junction, underground for most of the year, but a roaring flash flood zone hundreds of miles long during seasonal rains.  

In the Amargosa Canyon between Tecopa and the China Ranch area, it flows above ground all year. South of Dumont Dunes, it rounds the end of the Black Mountains and heads abruptly north again to empty into the bottom of Death Valley. (See closeup photo of the river's J-curve below the map.) There, it evaporates, rendering airborne any particulate matter that is not cemented into the salt flats of Badwater Basin or penetrates deep into the approximately 9,000 feet of alluvial gravel, headed to an unknown future.