Image credit: © ELLIOT MCGUCKEN, 45EPIC

Summer 2019

An Ethereal Whatchamacallit

By Rona Marech
Summer 2019: An Ethereal Whatchamacallit

What exactly was that 10-mile-long body of water in the desert?

“It was just such a lucky shot,” said L.A.-based photographer Elliot McGucken. He was in Death Valley National Park in March when he stumbled across a 10-mile-long body of water that materialized after around 0.84 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour span. When the wind died down, McGucken snapped the panoramic photo above, capturing the mountains reflected in the still water. “You forget all the technical details and science when you’re out there, and you just go for the ethereal quality,” he said.


Click to enlarge

To McGucken’s delight, his images ricocheted around social media, and numerous media outlets picked up the story. Not everyone was quite so impressed. Park spokeswoman Abby Wines dismissed #deathvalleylake as a puddle — or maybe a skim of water.

“There really isn’t a word for what it is,” she said. Plus, she pointed out, the event wasn’t as rare as the stories breathlessly reported. Water had collected in the same spot earlier in the winter, and the rainfall didn’t break any records.

But lake or glorified puddle, even Wines had to admit the nameless body had its merits: “It was beautiful,” she said.

About the author

  • Rona Marech Editor-in-Chief

    Rona Marech is the editor-in-chief of National Parks, NPCA’s award-winning magazine. Formerly a staff writer at the Baltimore Sun and the San Francisco Chronicle, Rona joined NPCA in 2013.

This article appeared in the Summer 2019 issue

National Parks, our award-winning quarterly magazine, is an exclusive benefit of membership in the National Parks Conservation Association.

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