CHP locates deceased Death Valley hiker

CHP locates deceased Death Valley hikerDEATH VALLEY, CA –

A California Highway Patrol (CHP) helicopter crew found a deceased hiker about 2 miles from the closest road in Death Valley National Park on July 28. According to family members, the 68-year-old man planned to hike from Badwater to West Side Road and back, a 12-mile round-trip hike across salt flats.

Douglas Branham missed a scheduled flight home to Tukwila, WA on July 27. A family member called The Inn at Death Valley on the morning of July 28 and learned that his belongings were still in his hotel room. National Park Service rangers found his vehicle at Badwater parking lot.

CHP’s H-82 helicopter located his body around 2:25 pm on July 28. Helicopter rotors struggle to create enough lift in hot air, and temperatures were about 115°F at the time. The helicopter landed at Furnace Creek airport to off-load equipment to lighten the helicopter before returning with a park ranger to recover his body.

The Inyo County Coroner Office is investigating the cause of death. Mr. Branham likely started his hike on Sunday or Monday, when temperatures were up to 118°F, with humidity up to 91%.

Park rangers urge summer travelers to visit Death Valley safely by hiking only before 10 am or at high elevations, drinking plenty of water, eating snacks, and by staying close to an air-conditioned building or vehicle to cool down in.

NPS photo: View of Badwater salt flats looking west towards West Side Road and Panamint Mountains.

Story First Published: 2021-08-06