Devils Hole (Death Valley National Park)

The name alone sounds terrifying, but plays along with the dark, evil and dreadful names that have been given to various landmarks within the National Park Service’s scariest sounding National Park. Places like the Devil’s Cornfield, Devils Throne, and Dante’s View are just a few of the satan inspired names that grace Death Valley. Of course this is the hottest place on earth, with a world record temperature of 134°F being recorded in 1913. The satan, hell and death references make perfect sense for such a place.

The Devils Hole is however not located within the boundaries of the park, but rather a detached unit in Amargosa Valley, Nevada known as the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Ash Meadows is a thirty-six square mile wildlife refuge that protects twenty-six endemic species, five of which are endangered, and seven that are threatened with extinction. The Devils Hole Pupfish which lives exclusively in the limestone cavern is one of the species that is threatened with extinction, with less than fifty surviving.


Devils Hole, as seen from the walkway above.

Devils Hole, as seen from the walkway above.


This is the only place in the world that the Devils Hole Pupfish lives, and with so few remaining in an area no larger than a medium-sized bedroom, there is little wonder why the species deserves a level of protection. The area around the Devils Hole is locked up behind several gates and cages, and can only be viewed from a walkway that extends out beside the cavern. While this prevents visitors from seeing the pupfish, it does give the opportunity to see the natural opening that extends into the earth for an unknown length.


Devils Hole Pupfish. Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Services.

Devils Hole Pupfish. Photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Services.


Yes, you read that right, it is unknown just how deep the Devils Hole is. It is known that the cavern is at least 500 feet deep. Stories have circulated that a 900 foot cable was dropped during a search for divers that went missing in the cavern, the cable was released completely, never reaching the bottom, but that is unconfirmed. The missing divers were never found. Other stories suggest that one of the men’s diving helmets was found washed up onshore along the California coast. Again, this is unconfirmed information, and could be no more than a desert tall tail.

What we do know is that earthquakes as far away as Japan, Indonesia and Chile have caused the water in the hole to slosh about. In March of 2012, when a 7.4 earthquake struck 1,700 miles away in Acapulco, Mexico a ‘tsunami’ in the Devils Hole was caught on video (video below).



Scientists from University of California, Davis have released new findings (as of June, 2016) that date the cavern opening to between 50,000 – 60,000 years. For the longest time it had been thought that the pupfish may have been relocated to the hole in a more recent time by early Native American inhabitants, or even by birds, but this new evidence finds that the pupfish appeared at around the same time that the Devils Hole opened up.

We may never know the full story behind the Devils Hole, and the fish that inhabit it, but we do have a damn good desert mystery, and scientist will continue to study it for years to come.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.