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Geology of the National Parks - Death Valley


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Saratoga and Valley Springs

Saratoga Springs
Saratoga Springs. Photo by Bruce Rogers, USGS.

Southern marshes

Saratoga and Valley Springs: both of these wetlands are located near the southern boundary of Death Valley National Park. Saratoga Springs consists of several spring mouths that provide water to three large open water ponds. The ponds total 6.6 acres when their areas are combined. Given their size, this may be the third largest marsh habitat in the Park behind the Saline Valley marsh in the western portion of the Park and Cottonball Marsh in central Death Valley.

Valley Springs is located along the Amargosa River channel five miles northwest of Saratoga Springs. The input of water along various points of the river channel is responsible for the presence of permanent water along a two-mile reach of the river channel.

pupfish photo on the way
Picture of Saratoga Springs pupfish from external website.

Wetland diversity

The fauna of these two wetlands is relatively diverse. The Saratoga Springs pupfish lives only in Saratoga Springs ponds. Five rare invertebrate species also occur at Saratoga Springs and include the Amargosa tryonia snail, the Amargosa spring snail, the Saratoga Springs belostoma bug, the Amargosa naucorid bug, and the Death Valley June beetle. The first four species are strictly aquatic in nature and live only in Saratoga Spring. The June beetle lives on land, but its distribution is limited to saltgrass habitats where shallow ground water is present. The June beetle and both snail species have distributions which are entirely confined to the Amargosa River drainage. Five notable bird species are known to occur at Saratoga Springs: the yellow warbler , the Cooper's hawk, the western snowy plover, the long-billed curlew, and the long-eared owl. All of these species have been placed on state or federal sensitive species lists because of habitat loss or population declines across their geographic ranges. Saratoga Springs is also unique in that it is one of the few locations in the Park where red-spotted toads and Pacific tree frogs occur in the same area.

Valley Springs is not known to have a unique invertebrate fauna, but does possess habitat that is occupied by the Amargosa River pupfish. This pupfish subspecies only exists at two locations along the length of the Amargosa River. One site is inside the Park at Valley Springs, and the other is outside the Park in Tecopa Canyon. Valley Springs also has been documented as having Amargosa Canyon speckled dace, another species of fish, following flash flood events.

Two rare water-dependent plant communities exist at Saratoga Spring and the lower Amargosa River. These include transmontane alkali marsh and alkali seep habitats. In a review of the California Natural Diversity Database, only ten alkaline seeps and seven alkaline marshes exist in records of the statewide database. The vegetation at Saratoga Springs and Valley Springs consists primarily of common reed, bulrush, and saltgrass. A limited amount of saltcedar is also present at Valley Springs.

(Excerpt from Wetland and riparian resources of Death Valley National Park and their susceptibility to water diversion activities. 1998, Douglas L. Threloff, NPS)

Saratoga springs in time
geologic time scale
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