Man treated for heat illness after pair gets lost, goes off-road in Death Valley

On the night the two men became lost, the lowest temperature recorded was 90 degrees.

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif. – Two men became lost while driving in Death Valley National Park on July 4, leading to one of them being transported to a hospital for heat illness.

The men were park visitors who took a wrong turn, leading them to drive back and forth on a gravel road for about three hours, according to the National Park Service. By around midnight, they became worried about running out of gas, deciding to go off-road and drive directly across a nearby salt flat to reach the paved Badwater Road.

Nearly a mile after leaving the gravel road, the men’s car became stuck in the mud.

The two men abandoned the vehicle and then walked about a mile to reach Badwater Road, the road they hoped to reach by crossing the salt flat in their car. They then walked 12 more miles along Badwater Road. By 3 a.m., the men split up, with one walking 6 additional miles north. At about 8 a.m., he was picked up by a family of park visitors, who drove him to Furnace Creek Visitor Center in the park, where he could make a call for help.


The family then drove back to pick up the second man, who was driven to Shoshone, California. He had symptoms of heat illness and was transported by ambulance to Desert View Hospital in Pahrump, Nevada.

The NPS said that driving off-road is illegal in Death Valley National Park. The men were issued a mandatory court appearance for their illegal off-road driving and the resulting damage to the park. Charges and fines are pending.

Their vehicle was retrieved three weeks after the incident on July 27.

"Death Valley is an awe-inspiring place that demands our utmost respect and preparedness," said NPS superintendent Mike Reynolds "We urge visitors to exercise caution and adhere to park rules. Don’t drive off established roads; this damages the environment and can turn deadly."

According to the NPS, the lowest temperature recorded during the evening when the men became lost was 90 degrees.

Death Valley National Park is known as the hottest place on Earth and the driest place in North America. In mid-July, the park reached temperatures of 129 degrees.


During the summer heat, the NPS stressed the importance of park visitors staying on paved roads and traveling with an up-to-date road map. They noted that GPS, which the two men used, is unreliable, and no cell service is available in most of the park.