Death Valley National Park Dust

Although Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did a good job of controling dust from the off road race by Beatty and ranches in Oasis Valley (after many complaints), the situation was far worse along the borders of Death Valley National Park.

We watched as racer after racer sped down a wash and onto the dirt road that park visitors use to access Strozzi Ranch in the Grapevine Mountains on Death Valley's eastern edge.

The silty powdered dirt rose in clouds a thousand feet high, or blown around by winds. Friends told us that this may impair their plans to camp here and bring telescopes to watch stars in the night sky.

The race route actually goes along the park boundary fence in the "Nevada Triangle" for several miles -- within a few feet of park land. Then it vears off along another small access road north towards Scotty's Junction.

After the race, these small dirt access roads were almost impassable to all but tourists with high-clearance vehicles in 4-wheel-drive, plowing through piles of dust and over deep new ruts.

Thrashed tires and whole wheels were left as trash on our public lands. Whirlwinds and dust-devils filled the air with haze from the ripped-up race track, the long-term legacy of the race for folks who live here and visit the park.

In addition, we found two separate tracks used by the 2008 racers, the park access road and a new track cut through desert flats, paralleling each other for miles in Sarcobatus Flat -- how many roads do we need in this community of Nevada ephedra, shadscale, Desert needlegrass, and Budsage? Sidewinder tracks and kangaroo rat footprints covered the race dust as animals ventured out at night.

Race organizers and BLM's Tom Seley (Tonopah Field Statiuon Manager) say they will clean up trash and help the county fix and grade these roads in October 2008. We will be watching.

August 20-21, 2010 Race

The Latest Vegas to Reno Race begins in Beatty, Nye County, Nevada on August 20, 2010. It will be a one-day (24-hour) event for off-raod cars, trucks, motorcycles, and quads.

Motorcycles will start at 5:45 am and the first car start at 9:30 am. The race will end on the morning of August 21, 2010 in Reno.

The course is 534 miles long, with 100 motorcycles and 120 cars participating.

No pre-run will happen this year, and roads used by the racers will be graded back into condition according to casey Folks, Director, within 60 days.

Nevada Off Road Race

August 22, 2008 -- Beatty, Nevada

The quiet Oasis Valley was awakened early this morning by no less than six helicopters rushing by in a hurry to get to the staging area of the largest off road race in the U.S. Motors rumble and pickup trucks loaded with gas cans crowd the sides of Highway 95, as everyone waits for the race to begin from the staging area five miles north of the the small historic mining town of Beatty in Nye County.

More than 200 race-cars lined up at the starting road (which heads to the ghost town of Pioneer), engines revving, most custom-fitted with large tires to speed as fast as 100 mph on shrubby desert surfaces and washes. First a group of motrocycles take off. Next lines of race cars drive from the staging area on private land, across Highway 95 (stopping traffic for periods of time on the busy interstate for an hour as flaggers controlled traffic). As they rev up to race in groups, we see clouds of dust come up from the canyons in the Bullfrog Hills as the racers head north at high speed through the Mojave Desert and into the Great Basin.

Terrible's "Best in the Desert"

The annual Vegas to Reno Off-Highway Vehicle Race, crossing hundreds of miles of public lands, some private lands, and county dirt roads, has had increasing problems from angry Nevadans. Clouds of dust lowering air quality, access roads ruined, habitat destroyed, and trespassing are some of the local complaints.

Originally a 550 mile race starting in 1996 (although 2,000 miles long across the entire state in the year 2000), the distances and routes have changed through the years as the main land-managing agency, BLM, has modified its Environmental Assessment (EA). The race is now 456 miles long.

Residents of Amargosa Valley to the south last year banned the race from their area due to damage caused on powerline roads and dust issues. Beatty people told their town council at meetings that local roads were impassable after the race went by, and that racers were often rowdy. Nye County voted not to support the race this year as well.

We talked to one long-time resident of Oasis Valley who told us that ten years ago the racers went so close to one spring that they "kicked dirt into it." The spring is currently Amargosa toad habitat (see sidebar). Helicopters circled over her during last-year's race, and several associated vehicles trespassed on her land. "They were rude! I was scared to go out of my house!"

Racers line up on Pioneer Road at the start of the race.

BLM specified that the race go in washes and pre-exisiting roads. But this race often goes over habitat that we would not consider washes or bedrock, but desert shrub basin communities, places where no pre-existing road occurred. The desert track can be rough -- in 2007 a racer died in Esmeralda County.

After the close of the Barstow to Vegas race in California in the 1980s, Nevada is the last state to allow a race of this magnitude.

See the Best in the Desert website at

Access road ruined for tourists.