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The Amargosa River is an intermittent stream, long, in southern Nevadamarker and eastern Californiamarker in the United Statesmarker. It drains a high desert region northwest of Las Vegasmarker into Death Valleymarker, where it disappears into the ground. Except for a small portion of its route in the Amargosa Canyon in California and a small portion at Beatty, Nevadamarker, the river flows only after a rare rainstorm washes the region. A stretch of the river between Shoshonemarker and Dumont Dunes is protected as a National Wild and Scenic River.

Course

Except during flash floods that occur after cloudbursts, most of the course of the Amargosa River is dry on the surface. The flow is generally underground except for stretches near Beatty and near Tecopa, Californiamarker, in the Amargosa Canyon. In the canyon, the river passes through the Amargosa River Natural Area, a region of dense greenery and prolific wildlife made possible by the presence of water.

The river rises at about above sea level in Nye County, Nevadamarker, along the southern side of Pahute Mesa in the Nellis Air Force Rangemarker. Thirsty Canyon Wash enters at the river's source, and when carrying water, the river flows from there southwest into Oasis Valley. Running parallel to U.S. Route 95 near the Bullfrog Hillsmarker to the west (right), the river receives Sober-Up Gulch from the right and then Beatty Wash from the left bank. Another or so downstream, the river flows through Beatty, Nevadamarker, and turns south-southeast through the Amargosa Narrows into the Amargosa Desertmarker. At this point, Bare Mountainmarker lies to the left and the Grapevinemarker and Funeralmarker Mountains of the Amargosa Rangemarker lie to the right. Downstream of the Narrows, still flowing roughly parallel to Route 95, the river passes Big Dune, which is on the river's left. Shortly thereafter it passes the town of Amargosa Valleymarker on the left, leaves Nevada, and enters Inyo County, Californiamarker. In this stretch, it receives Forty Mile Wash from the left.

Running roughly parallel to California Route 127, the river passes through Death Valley Junctionmarker. Shortly thereafter it receives Carson Slough, which drains Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refugemarker, from the left. Soon the river passes between the Resting Spring Rangemarker to the left and the Greenwater Rangemarker to the right before reaching Shoshonemarker. Below Shoshone, the river continues roughly parallel to Route 127 to Tecopa. Downstream of Tecopa, it passes under the Old Spanish Trail Road and through the Amargosa Canyon between the Sperry Hillsmarker on the right and the Dumont Hillsmarker on the left, enters San Bernardino County, Californiamarker, and flows by Dumont Dunes in the northern Mojave Desert. Turning west, the river crosses under Route 127 and enters Death Valley National Parkmarker between the south end of the Amargosa Range on the right and the Avawatz Mountainsmarker on the left.

Turning northwest and then north, the river re-enters Inyo County, passing between the Owlshead Mountainsmarker on the left and the Ibex Hillsmarker on the right and receives Confidence Wash and Rhodes Wash, both from the right.In this stretch, the river runs roughly parallel to Harry Wade Road and, further north, to California Route 178 and West Side Road. The river receives Willow Creek from the right and ends in Badwater Basinmarker, about below sea level between the Black Mountainsmarker on the right and the Panamint Rangemarker on the left. Disappearing into the ground, it feeds the aquifer that is the remnant of prehistoric Lake Manlymarker.

Discharge

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) monitors the flow of the Amargosa River at a gauge station near the Old Spanish Trail Road, west of Tecopa. The average flow of the river at this station is . This is from a drainage area of , much of which is noncontributing and all of which represents about 60 percent of the total Amargosa River drainage basin. The maximum flow recorded there was on August 16, 1983, and the minimum flow was on some days in some years.

History

During very wet periods, the Amargosa River can flow at the surface in Death Valley.
The name of the river comes from the Spanish word, amargo, for "bitter", probably shortened from agua amargosa, "bitter water". The river is an ancient stream, following an antecedent canyon. Evidence of human habitation along the river goes back more than 10,000 years. In addition to prehistoric Lake Manly in Death Valley, the middle river valley was submerged during the late Pleistocene by prehistoric Lake Tecopa. The canyon floor along the Amargosa Range has remnants of indigenous habitations that are protected by the Bureau of Land Management. The Old Spanish Trail followed the course of the river in the 19th century. From 1907 to 1941, the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad followed the lower course of the river serving remote Death Valley communities. In March 2009, as part of the Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act, a stretch of the river between Shoshone and Dumont Dunes was protected as a Wild and Scenic River.

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