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Hike through the narrow cleft of Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley's spaciousness is a big part of its appeal, but there's something here for claustrophobic individuals as well. In a few places, infrequent but powerful flash floods have carved narrow, sinuous channels into the bedrock of the mountains that border the valley. Mosaic Canyon is the most accessible of these deep, slot-like ravines.

The three-mile drive to the mouth of Mosaic Canyon, by way of a gravelly, unpaved road, starts just west of the village/campground of Stovepipe Wells. All but low-slung passenger vehicles can normally negotiate this road. As you rattle south, the sharply rising Tucki Mountains loom ever larger ahead. At road's end you set off on foot toward the nearby mouth of the canyon by following a normally dry, sandy wash. Only during rare periods of rainfall is the porous surface of the wash actually wet.

As you work your way up the increasingly narrow and deep ravine, notice the mosaic pattern of rocks embedded in the canyon walls. This type of rock, known as breccia (the Italian word meaning "fragments"), consists of jagged pieces of many kinds of rock incorporated into a matrix of marble.

Within a quarter mile, your passage through the ravine is highlighted by the sight of polished marble walls ascending nearly vertically. High above you, in a few spots, you might see bits and pieces of trees and shrubs left by the cresting waters of some past flash flood. Flooding has certainly done the carving, but the direction in which those waters traveled was controlled to a large extent by preexisting rifts, or faults, in the mountain slope.

Your hike into Mosaic Canyon can take as little as 20 minutes -- or as much as a couple of hours or more if you're willing to use your hands as well as your feet to climb over several "dry falls," or steeply inclined chutes, worn into the bottom of the canyon. Take along plenty of water if you intend to spend a lot of time in the upper canyon.

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Death Valley's spaciousness is a big part of its appeal, but there's something here for claustrophobic individuals as well. In a few places, infrequent but powerful flash floods have carved narrow, sinuous channels into the bedrock of the mountains that border the valley. Mosaic Canyon is the most accessible of these deep, slot-like ravines.

The three-mile drive to the mouth of Mosaic Canyon, by way of a gravelly, unpaved road, starts just west of the village/campground of Stovepipe Wells. All but low-slung passenger vehicles can normally negotiate this road. As you rattle south, the sharply rising Tucki Mountains loom ever larger ahead. At road's end you set off on foot toward the nearby mouth of the canyon by following a normally dry, sandy wash. Only during rare periods of rainfall is the porous surface of the wash actually wet.

As you work your way up the increasingly narrow and deep ravine, notice the mosaic pattern of rocks embedded in the canyon walls. This type of rock, known as breccia (the Italian word meaning "fragments"), consists of jagged pieces of many kinds of rock incorporated into a matrix of marble.

Within a quarter mile, your passage through the ravine is highlighted by the sight of polished marble walls ascending nearly vertically. High above you, in a few spots, you might see bits and pieces of trees and shrubs left by the cresting waters of some past flash flood. Flooding has certainly done the carving, but the direction in which those waters traveled was controlled to a large extent by preexisting rifts, or faults, in the mountain slope.

Your hike into Mosaic Canyon can take as little as 20 minutes -- or as much as a couple of hours or more if you're willing to use your hands as well as your feet to climb over several "dry falls," or steeply inclined chutes, worn into the bottom of the canyon. Take along plenty of water if you intend to spend a lot of time in the upper canyon.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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