NOTICE: DV.net will be down for a few days starting 9/17 while some forum software modifications are made.

McElvoy Canyon flash flood?

Discuss 4x4'ing, Hiking, Backpacking, Camping
Post Reply
kwalsh
Jayhawker
Posts: 47
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:53 am

McElvoy Canyon flash flood?

Post by kwalsh » Mon Mar 18, 2013 3:58 pm

Last week hiked a bit up McElvoy Canyon (Saline Valley, one mile south of the turn to the springs). Mentioned this in my recently posted trip report. The canyon appears to have suffered a major debris flow between the first and second falls. Mud splatter about 10 feet up the canyon walls in the wide part. All trees and brush completely scoured away (there were big trees in there before and it was bushwacking choked with brush). For a full quarter mile below the second fall the canyon is now just a flat waste land of rocks, tree trunks and branches and mud. Interestingly below the first fall everything appears fine. A little above the first fall there is a large rockfall and it appears all the destruction is trapped behind this rockfall. It looks as if there could easily be 20 feet of debris fill behind the rock fall.

Anyone know when this happened? This past summer? I was last up this canyon in 2009. Another group was there when we were and a member of that group thought it must have happened in the past two years based on when he thought he last visited. The mud splatter on the canyon walls seemed like it couldn't have been there two long.

Anyone with more info?

Thanks,

Ken

GeorgeHayduke
Jayhawker
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Jan 31, 2010 9:08 am

Post by GeorgeHayduke » Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:26 pm

It had to have happened within the past year. I was there this past Christmas and witnessed everything you described. I was also there at Christmas a year ago and all the vegetation was intact so I'm guessing a major thunderstorm in summer 2012.

The devastation is truly remarkable. The flow appears to have been more mud/sand than water. Very viscous...like lava or thick pancake batter. There were 1-foot diameter willow trees plastered against the canyon wall. I have photos but I don't know how to post them.

I have seen this lava/pancake batter phenomenon several times now in different canyons and Digonnet mentions it in his section on Paiute Canyon. The consistency is rather uniform with very few large rocks and boulders mixed in, and the stuff hardens like concrete.

I'm puzzled as to how this happens. Initially I thought that a thunderstorm had hit a huge tailings pile way upstream just right, causing a catastrophic failure all at once. But now I've seen this phenomenon in so many canyons that I believe my hypothesis is no good. Anybody else seen this before? Got any ideas as to how it happens?

George

kwalsh
Jayhawker
Posts: 47
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:53 am

Post by kwalsh » Tue Mar 19, 2013 5:27 am

Thanks George!

I was guessing it was this past summer based on all the thunderstorms that occurred but great to have confirmation.

These debris flows are impressive. I've seen the results from burn areas sliding in the So. Cal. area and it does look like some sort of paste. You can get the sense of the viscosity from the fact that there are often huge boulders suspended in the matrix when it stops.

What was really impressive to me in McElvoy was how it just appeared to have stopped halfway down the canyon. I always assumed that when this happened there was also an enormous amount of water out front of the flow. I expected that even if the lower portion of the canyon didn't get heavy debris I would have seen more evidence of a lot of water having come down. Obviously that isn't the case and that made the destruction up canyon so much more surprising when encountered.

Yeah, and I felt really silly afterwards having not taken a picture! Had a camera on me the whole time...

Thanks again,

Ken

User avatar
ETAV8R
Grubstaker
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 1:25 am

Post by ETAV8R » Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:37 am

The storms in August wreaked havoc with SVR so with McElvoy in the vacinity seems bout right that it too was hit by a good amount of thrashing from mom nature.

User avatar
MojaveGeek
Death Valley Resident
Posts: 2057
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2008 5:22 pm
Location: Boston

Post by MojaveGeek » Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:09 am

What tends to happen in these flash floods is that there is a big buildup of a "wall of water" on the way down. The leading edge of the mess moves (relatively) slowly as it is breaking new ground as it goes downstream and has a lot of friction at the dry leading edge. The stuff comes down behind and catches up and then just builds up behind it. So downstream it just rushes at you as one big wall of debris.

I think that's how it builds up so fast, absent the scenario in which some natural or artificial dam breaks upstream.

I don't know what McElvoy is like. Certainly a lot of canyons are cut into alluvium which is really just small rocks in a matrix of mud, and once that starts to fail, there is an awful lot of small debris to get carried down.

User avatar
Alkali Bill
Jayhawker
Posts: 71
Joined: Sat Jul 08, 2006 9:13 am
Location: Reno

Post by Alkali Bill » Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:01 am

Here's a decent debris flow video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpGP1uoCHr4
Cheers,
Alkali Bill

beveridgeflyer
Jayhawker
Posts: 21
Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2006 9:43 pm

recently visited McElvoy Canyon & the Flashflood Damage

Post by beveridgeflyer » Thu May 09, 2013 9:56 am

We were amazed at the devastation and loss of historical resources in the canyon. In particular, most of the McElvoy Mill machinery was washed away, along with the trail down the bottom of McElvoy Canyon, as well as the Beekeepers cabin at 4,700 feet in the canyon bottom.

I have photos if anyone wants to contact me via my email address:

BeveridgeFlyer@GMail.com
Respect...
...the historic structures
...the roads and trails
...the pristine wilderness
Or just go back where you came from

beveridgeflyer
Jayhawker
Posts: 21
Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2006 9:43 pm

happened October 2012

Post by beveridgeflyer » Thu May 09, 2013 9:58 am

My sources tell me that the flashflood happened sometime in October 2012. Some folks are going out to SV soon to measure the devastation from the SV side.
Respect...
...the historic structures
...the roads and trails
...the pristine wilderness
Or just go back where you came from

kurt765
Jayhawker
Posts: 50
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:49 am

Post by kurt765 » Sat May 18, 2013 7:19 am

Image
Encircling Walls by Kurt Lawson, on Flickr

This was in McElvoy canyon in January 2012. We didn't go too far in. Sounds like even as far as we went is now a real challenge.

Moly Man
Breyfogler
Posts: 94
Joined: Sun Oct 15, 2006 11:32 pm
Location: Bagdad, Arizona

The Beekeeper's Cabin

Post by Moly Man » Fri May 31, 2013 11:34 pm

BeveridgeFlyer writes:
We were amazed at the devastation and loss of historical resources in the canyon. In particular, most of the McElvoy Mill machinery was washed away, along with the trail down the bottom of McElvoy Canyon, as well as the Beekeepers cabin at 4,700 feet in the canyon bottom.
Your reference to the Beekeeper's Cabin in McElvoy Canyon caught my interest and a short search on Google uncovered this interesting bit of history regarding the Beekeeper of McElvoy Canyon. I'm sorry to hear that the cabin is no more.

http://4reliablecomputers.net/californi ... moyer.html

User avatar
MojaveGeek
Death Valley Resident
Posts: 2057
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2008 5:22 pm
Location: Boston

Post by MojaveGeek » Mon Jun 03, 2013 5:34 pm

That was an interesting find, Moly, thanks for posting the link.

Moly Man
Breyfogler
Posts: 94
Joined: Sun Oct 15, 2006 11:32 pm
Location: Bagdad, Arizona

Post by Moly Man » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:48 pm

your welcome Mojave...I would have enjoyed attempting McElvoy Canyon about 15 yrs ago but I'm afraid my technical climbing skills just aren't what they used to be....sigh!

kurt765
Jayhawker
Posts: 50
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:49 am

Post by kurt765 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 4:32 pm

I wonder what the status is of McElvoy now after the July and September storms? Probably even more devastated by the recent pounding Saline Valley received. I wonder if Beveridge was also hammered now.

kwalsh
Jayhawker
Posts: 47
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:53 am

Post by kwalsh » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:19 am

kurt765 wrote:I wonder what the status is of McElvoy now after the July and September storms? Probably even more devastated by the recent pounding Saline Valley received. I wonder if Beveridge was also hammered now.
That's a good question. I hope to be at the springs in early November for most of a week. I might go have a look at a few of the canyons.

Post Reply