Surprise Canyon

Surprise Canyon

Surprise Canyon Proposed Wild and Scenic River

Photo by Linda Castro

(Click here to download a Fact Sheet on the Surprise Canyon Proposed Wild and Scenic River and click here for a map)

The California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act proposes to protect seven miles of stream in Surprise Canyon as Wild and Scenic.

Surprise Canyon is a rare perennial desert stream flowing through the spectacular Panamint Mountains. The narrow slot canyon’s year-round stream flow, spring seeps, waterfalls, and riparian vegetation offer outstanding scenery and primitive recreational opportunities. The hike up Surprise Canyon to the abandoned mining town of Panamint City in Death Valley National Park is one of the most outstanding treks in the California Desert.

The perennial flow in Surprise Canyon supports extensive riparian habitat that provides a seasonal home to more than 70 bird species, as well as the rare Panamint alligator lizard. Flowing through the unprotected heart of the existing Surprise Canyon Wilderness, the stream is an essential water source for bighorn sheep. Limestone outcrops in Surprise Canyon provide micro-habitat for several federal sensitive plant species, including the Panamint daisy and the Death Valley round-leaved phacelia.