Bureau of Land Management National Park Service U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service U.S. Forest Service

Surprise Canyon Creek, California

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Managing Agency:

Bureau of Land Management
National Park Service, Death Valley National Park

Designated Reach:

March 12, 2019. From the confluence of Frenchman’s Canyon and Water Canyon to the southern boundary of Section 14, T 21 S, R 44 E.


Wild — 5.3 miles; Recreational — 1.8 miles; Total — 7.1 miles.

Surprise Canyon Creek


Death Valley National Park

Photo Credit: National Park Service, Death Valley National Park

Surprise Canyon Creek

Originating in the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley National Park, Surprise Canyon Creek cuts deeply into the landscape as it flows west through the national park and into the BLM's Surprise Canyon Creek Wilderness. The creek's gradient is steep, dropping from above 6,000 feet to below 2,000 feet in approximately 7 miles. A rare perennial desert stream, Surprise Canyon Creek's flow is fed by springs that bubble up from the canyon walls.

In this arid landscape, Surprise Canyon Creek supports lush riparian habitats, including stands of cottonwood and willow trees which provide homes for numerous species of birds, reptiles and mammals. The canyon supports important bighorn sheep habitat and the rare Panamint daisy among many other unique plants and animals. For thousands of years, Surprise Canyon has served as a trail through the rugged Panamint Mountains for Native Americans, miners and, most recently, hikers. The creek and surrounding landscape offer outstanding scenic and recreational opportunities, including hiking to the abandoned gold mining town of Panamint City in Death Valley National Park.