Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is one of
the most famous places in the world. It has earned its name as well a
unique place in history because of the extremes that are found here. Today
we are drawn here because of the extremes in beauty that we see in its
desolation and heat.
In the past, Death Valley was known as a place to avoid because this was not only a desert, it was the worst desert to attempt to navigate in any way. Before beauty and the exotic extremes brought people to this place, mining made Death Valley an economic resource.
The Death Valley that we know today was not always like this. In terms of geologic time, it was only moments ago that Death Valley was a relatively lush and inviting place. Death Valley is a place of change. The highly active mountain building in the region created the place we call Death Valley only in the last 5.3 million years. As the Sierra Nevada Mountains rose slowly in the Pliocene, a rain shadow appeared that created this desert.
As the Pleistocene Era began, a huge lake, Lake Manly filled the valley to a depth of 600 feet. As we get closer to modern times, the lakes which occupied this valley became increasingly shallower. As the Ice Age retreated, so did the water. Today, Death Valley is the driest and hottest place in North America.
Planning Your Visit
If you plan to visit Death Valley you should expect spend the whole day. This is because Death Valley is really spread out in terms of the attractions that generally draw tourists. To best see as many of these places as possible you when need to plan your journey. How you plan your journey depends on the direction that you will be entering Death Valley from. If you are coming from Las Vegas you will probably enter Death Valley by way of Pahrump Nevada. If you are coming from Los Angeles you will likely enter Death Valley via Victorville, Hesperia, Adelanto and drive up through Ridgecrest to Panamint Springs. If you are coming directly from Reno you will pass through Hawthorne and you can get to the park from either the Nevada side or the California side.
Whichever way you approach Death Valley you are likely to have to double-back in part of your journey or, you will not get to all the points of interest. The solution to this situation is exemplified by the location of Scotty's Castle one of the most popular points of interest in the park. Scotty's Castle is located near the northern part of the park near the Nevada border. If you are coming from Reno or places in northern California such as Sacramento you will start at Scotty's Castle and then work your way down to Furnace Creek, first on Scotty's Castle Road, then to Zabriskie Point on SR 190. From Scotty's Castle, before you get to Furnace Creek you might want to visit Stovepipe Wells. Along the way to Stovepipe Wells you will encounter a dune field that you might want to get some photos of. Another side trip at the same junction in the road that takes you to Stovepipe Wells, you can head north and east into Nevada on 'Daylight Pass Road' to visit Ryolite Ghost Town.
If you go to either or both of these locations you must return to the road that passes through Death Valley on a roughly north-south axis, California Highway 190. From this intersection you will take 190 to Furnace Creek which has a National Park Service visitors center. From the Visitors Center it is a short drive to Zabriskie Point. Where you want to end up when you leave Death Valley will determine which way and which sights you want to see next. If you want to end up in Las Vegas it will be easy for you just to head over to Pahrump. If you want to go back to Los Angeles, continue on SR 190 and you will get back to Interstate 15. If you want to get back to northern California, you will have to double back on 190 and go through Stovepipe Wells.
* Badwater is 282 feet below sea level, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.
* The hottest temperature ever recorded in the US was near Death Valley at the Greenland Ranch on July 10, 1913.
* The valley was covered with a lake in the last ice age, Lake Manly, when the region was cooler and wetter.
* Rainfall, lass than 2 inches per year bit with an evaporation rate of 150 inches per year.
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