Driest Places in the United States

Lowest Precipitation

Annual rainfall in the driest parts of the US ranges from just two to four inches a year. The least rainy portion of the country takes in a broad swath of southeast California, extending from Death Valley, south to the Mexican border. The most arid area also crosses the state border into Nevada and straddles the Colorado River in the southwest corner of Arizona.

Two deserts occupy this region. The Mojave Desert covers the northern portion, including Death Valley and Las Vegas. Farther south, the Sonoran Desert surrounds the Salton Sea and runs east beyond Yuma, Arizona.

There is also a pocket of exceptionally dry weather in western Utah, at the Bonneville Salt Flats. That area lies within the Great Basin Desert.

The first list here ranks places in the USA with the lowest precipitation — where rainfall and snowfall average four inches or less per year. The number of days with wet weather counts the days when precipitation amounts to 0.01 inches (0.25 millimetres) or more.

Average annual precipitation for the driest places in the United States
Days Place Inches Milli­metres
23 Stovepipe Wells, California 2.0 50
16 Death Valley, California 2.2 56
15 Brawley, California 2.4 60
13 Imperial, California 2.4 60
11 Calexico, California 2.5 63
13 El Centro, California 2.5 64
12 Niland, California 2.6 65
11 Indio, California 2.9 74
17 Thermal, California 3.0 75
11 Mecca, California 3.1 77
12 Yuma, Arizona 3.2 81
14 Ocotillo, California 3.5 88
18 Blythe, California 3.6 90
36 Wendover, Utah 3.6 91
16 Trona, California 3.6 92
21 Amargosa Valley, Nevada 3.8 96
17 Tacna, Arizona 3.8 96
21 Twentynine Palms, California 3.9 98
23 Las Vegas, Nevada 4.0 101

The precipitation records are compiled from 15,027 weather stations in the US that contributed quality data over the 30-year-period from 1991 to 2020 for NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

Fewest Rainy Days

The places in the US where it rains least often are Indio, Mecca and Calexico in California. These communities average just 11 days of year with rainfall. A day with rain is measured as anything that's at least a light shower lasting for a few minutes, amounting to 0.01 inches or more.

Indio, Mecca and Calexico are in a region that takes in the eastern Coachella Valley, to the southeast of Palm Springs, and runs south through the Imperial Valley, past the Salton Sea to the California border with Mexico. It's an area that receives only two to three inches of precipitation in a typical year.

Desert Places in Other States

Besides the four states already mentioned, places with desert climates are found in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Deserts receive at most 10 inches (250 millimetres) of rain or snow a year, on average.

The next table here gives precipitation totals at some of the driest locations in other states. The list only includes a sampling of weather stations for each state which record less than ten inches in a normal year.

Yearly precipitation averages
Days Place Inches Milli­metres
75 Ugnu-Kuparuk Airport, Alaska 4.7 120
98 Utqiagvik, Alaska 5.4 137
39 Deaver, Wyoming 5.5 140
45 Fort Duchesne, Utah 6.0 153
45 Lovell, Wyoming 6.5 164
49 Grand View, Idaho 6.7 170
75 Challis, Idaho 6.9 176
53 Center, Colorado 7.2 183
64 Alamosa, Colorado 7.3 184
84 Richland, Washington 7.3 185
52 Kirtland, New Mexico 7.3 186
55 Quincy, Washington 7.5 190
60 Farmington, New Mexico 7.8 197
95 McNary, Oregon 7.9 201
76 Rome State Airport, Oregon 8.2 208
42 Tornillo, Texas 8.3 210
36 Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii 8.5 217
39 Rio Grande Village, Texas 8.7 220
39 Pu'ukohola Heiau Historic Site, Hawaii 9.0 228
58 Glen, Montana 9.2 233
78 Twin Bridges, Montana 9.4 240

The driest areas in other states are too damp to be considered deserts. Only a few locations measure less than 20 inches of precipitation a year and are just found in Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The driest of these is at Buffalo, South Dakota which averages 13.5 inches of precipitation a year.


National Climatic Data Center. NOAA's 1981-2010 Climate Normals.

Western Regional Climate Center

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