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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 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.