How deep was Death Valley’s ‘Lake Manly’? NASA shares new data

How deep was Death Valley’s ‘Lake Manly’? NASA shares new data
How deep was Death Valley’s ‘Lake Manly’? NASA shares new data

Lake forms in notoriously dry Death Valley attracting kayakers

Record rainfall in California produced a lake in one of the driest places on Earth, Death Valley, and it brought out tourists for some water fun.

NASA is sharing new data on the rare and mysterious lake that formed in North America’s driest area, Death Valley, that shows just how big it got.

The desert in southeastern California about two hours west of Las Vegas received enough rain to form a lake so deep that for a few weeks visitors could kayak in the Badwater Basin, which lies 282 feet below sea level, according to a news release from the National Park Service.

People have been flocking to the valley to see the rare lake, which was nicknamed “Lake Manly.”

On March 4, the park service announced the lake was closed to boating, and it remained so. As of April 21, the lake is only a few inches deep, according to the park service.

But new images from NASA, released Tuesday, show just how deep the temporary lake got earlier in the year.

NASA findings on Lake Manly

NASA used the US-French Surface Water and Ocean Topography, or SWOT, satellite to calculate the depth of the lake and track how it changed from February to March.

“The analysis found that water depths in the lake ranged from about 3 feet (1 meter) to less than 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) over the course of about 6 weeks,” the news release said.

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NASA first released satellite images of the lake in February.

According to the release, water levels, which NASA said came from California storms that brought “record amounts of rainfall,” were calculated by subtracting land elevation from the water level data collected by SWOT.

“The researchers found that the water levels varied across space and time in the roughly 10-day period between SWOT observations,” the release said.

According to NASA, the valley’s lake differs in a few ways from many of the lakes around the world. Unlike other lakes, Lake Manly is:

  • Temporary.
  • Relatively shallow.
  • Can be moved a couple of miles by strong winds.

“Since there isn’t typically water in Badwater Basin, researchers don’t have permanent instruments in place for studying water in this area,” the release said. “SWOT can fill the data gap for when places like this, and others around the world, become inundated.”

Lake Manly outlasted expectations

According to USA TODAY’s earlier reporting, “Lake Manly” outlasted experts’ expectations. The lake arrived with the last bit of Hurricane Hillary in August and lasted because of the “atmospheric river” storms that brought an abundance of rain.

Though boating is no longer permitted in the now-shallow lake, the National Park Service said Sunday that “visitors can still see beautiful reflections of the mountains in the water.” The notice added that visitors can walk in the water but asked patrons to “not walk in muddy areas where you will leave footprints.”

This isn’t the first time the lake appeared in the valley. Lakes have come and gone thousands in the valley for years. Its watery past is what left behind the valley’s scenic terraced shorelines.

Contributing: Eric Lagatta and Dinah Voyles Pulver

Julia is a trending reporter for USA TODAY. She has covered various topics, from local businesses and government in her hometown, Miami, to tech and pop culture. You can follow her on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and TikTok: @juliamariegz



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