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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 36°08′41″N 116°29′24″W / 36.1448°N 116.4901°W / 36.1448; -116.4901

Landsat 7 imagery of Death Valley

Death Valley is a desert located in the southwestern United States of America.

Situated within the Mojave Desert, it features the lowest, driest, and hottest locations in North America.[1] Badwater, a basin located within Death Valley, is the specific location of the lowest elevation in North America at 282 ft (85.5 m ) below sea level. This point is only 76 miles (123 km) east of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet (4,421 m). Death Valley holds the record for the highest reliably reported temperature in the Western hemisphere, 134°F (56.7°C) at Furnace Creek on July 13, 1913—just short of the world record, 136°F (57.7°C) in Al 'Aziziyah, Libya, on September 13, 1922.

Located near the border of California and Nevada, in the Great Basin, east of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Death Valley constitutes much of Death Valley National Park and is the principal feature of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve. It is located mostly in Inyo County, California. It runs from north to south between the Amargosa Range on the east and the Panamint Range on the west; the Sylvania Mountains and the Owlshead Mountains form its northern and southern boundaries, respectively. It has an area of about 3,000 sq mi (7,800 km2).[2] Death Valley shares many characteristics with other places below sea level.



Death Valley Dunes

Death Valley is one of the best geological examples of a basin and range configuration. It lies at the southern end of a geological trough known as Walker Lane, which runs north into Oregon. The valley is bisected by a right lateral strike slip fault system, represented by the Death Valley Fault and the Furnace Creek Fault. The eastern end of the left lateral Garlock Fault intersects the Death Valley Fault. Furnace Creek and the Amargosa River flow through the valley but eventually disappear into the sands of the valley floor.

Death Valley also contains salt pans. According to current geological consensus, during the middle of the Pleistocene era there was a succession of inland seas (collectively referred to as Lake Manly) located where Death Valley is today. As the area turned to desert the water evaporated, leaving behind the abundance of evaporitic salts such as common sodium salts and borax, which were subsequently exploited during the modern history of the region, primarily 1883 to 1907.[3]

As a general rule, lower altitudes tend to have higher temperatures where the sun heats the ground and that heat is then radiated upward, but as the air begins to rise it is trapped by (1) the surrounding elevation and (2) the weight of the air (essentially the atmospheric pressure) above it. The atmospheric pressure is higher at very low altitudes than it is under the same conditions at sea level because there is more air (more distance) between the ground and the top of the atmosphere. This pressure traps the heat near the ground, and also creates wind currents that circulate very hot air, thereby distributing the heat to all areas, regardless of shade and other factors.[4]

This process is especially important in Death Valley as it provides its specific climate and geography. The valley is surrounded by mountains, while its surface is mostly flat and devoid of plants, and of which a high percentage of the sun's heat is able to reach the ground, absorbed by soil and rock. When air at ground level is heated, it begins to rise, moving up past steep high mountain ranges, which then cools slightly, sinking back down towards the valley more compressed. This air is then reheated by the sun to a higher temperature, moving up the mountain again, whereby the air moves up and down in a circular motion in cycles, similar to how a convection oven works, albeit a natural one. This superheated air increases ground temperature markedly, forming the hot wind currents that are trapped by atmospheric pressure and mountains, thus stays mostly within the valley. Such hot wind currents contribute to perpetual drought like conditions in Death Valley and prevent much cloud formation to pass through the confines of the valley, where precipitation is often in the form of a virga.[5] Death Valley holds temperature records because it has an unusually high number of factors that lead to high atmospheric temperatures.

Tourist area flooded by 'Lake Badwater', an ephemeral lake that occurred after an unusually wet winter and spring[6], March 14, 2005


The depth and shape of Death Valley influence its summer temperatures. The valley is a long, narrow basin 282 feet (86 m) below sea level, yet is walled by high, steep mountain ranges. The clear, dry air and sparse plant cover allow sunlight to heat the desert surface. Summer nights provide little relief as overnight lows may only dip into the 86°F to 95°F (30°C to 35°C) range. Moving masses of super-heated air blow through the valley creating extreme high temperatures.[7]

The hottest air temperature ever recorded in Death Valley (Furnace Creek) was 134°F (57.1°C) on July 10, 1913, at Furnace Creek. During the heat wave that peaked with that record, five consecutive days reached 129°F (54°C) or above. The greatest number of consecutive days with a maximum temperature of 100°F or above was 154 days in the summer of 2001. The summer of 1996 had 40 days over 120°F, and 105 days over 110°F. The summer of 1917 had 52 days where temperatures reached 120°F (49°C) or above with 43 of them consecutive. Four major mountain ranges lie between Death Valley and the ocean, each one adding to an increasingly drier rainshadow effect, and in 1929 and 1953 no rain was recorded for the whole year.[7] The period from 1931 to 1934 was the driest stretch on record with only 0.64 inches (1.6 cm) of rain over a 40-month period.[8]

From 1961-2008 the weather station at Death Valley (Furnace Creek) recorded an average yearly temperature of 76.7°F (24.8°C) with an average high in January of around 66°F (19°C) and 116°F (47°C) in July.[9] Another weather station located in Death Valley (Cow Creek), during the period from 1934 to 1961 recorded an average yearly temperature of 77.3°F (25.2°C) with an average high in January of around 64°F (18°C) and 116°F (47°C) in July.[10]

The period from July 17–19, 1959 was the longest string of consecutive days where nighttime low temperatures did not drop below 100°F. As recently as 2003 the Furnace Creek weather station reported two consecutive readings with night time lows of 100°F or above. The highest ever night time low temperature in Death Valley was 103°F recorded on July 5, 1970 and July 24, 2003.[11]

The longest stretch of consecutive days where temperatures reached 90°F (32°C) or more was 205 during Apr-Oct 1992.[12] On average there are 192 days per year in Death Valley where temperatures reach 90°F (32°C) or more.[13]

The lowest temperature recorded at Greenland Ranch was 15°F in January 1913.

The average annual precipitation in Death Valley (Greenland Ranch Station) is 1.58 inches (4.00 cm).[14] The wettest month on record is January 1995 when 2.59 inches (6.57 cm) fell on Death Valley.[15] The wettest period on record was mid 2004 to mid 2005, in which nearly 6 inches of rain fell in total, leading to ephemeral lakes in the valley and the region and tremendous wildflower blooms.[16]

Climate data for Death Valley (Furnace Creek Station)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 88
Average high °F (°C) 66.1
Average low °F (°C) 39.3
Record low °F (°C) 15
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.35
Source: [17] Jun 03, 2009
Climate data for Death Valley (Cow Creek Station)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 64.4
Average low °F (°C) 40.6
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.24
Source: [18] Jun 03, 2009

Lake Badwater and glacial Lake Manly

Lake Badwater, February 9, 2005. Landsat 5 satellite photo.
Badwater Basin dry lake, February 15, 2007. Landsat 5 satellite photo
Greater Roadrunner at Death Valley National Park Visitor Center, California
Zabriskie Point at sunrise in Death Valley.
Sand dunes in Death Valley
Death Valley in blossom

In 2005, Death Valley received four times its average annual rainfall of 1.5 inches. As it has done before for hundreds of years, the lowest spot in the valley filled with a wide, shallow lake, but the extreme heat and aridity immediately began sucking the ephemeral lake dry.

This pair of images from NASA’s Landsat 5 satellite documents the short history of Death Valley’s Lake Badwater: formed in February 2005 (top) and long gone by February 2007 (bottom). In 2005, a big pool of greenish water stretched most of the way across the valley floor. By May 2005 the valley floor had resumed its more familiar role as Badwater Basin, a salt-coated salt flats. In time, this freshly dissolved and recrystallized salt will darken.

The western margin of Death Valley is traced by alluvial fans. During flash floods, rainfall from the steep mountains to the west pours through narrow canyons, picking up everything from fine clay to large rocks. When these torrents reach the mouths of the canyons, they widen and slow, branching out into braided streams. The paler the fans, the younger they are.

During the Pleistocene ice age, which ended roughly 10,000–12,000 years ago, the Sierra Nevada ranges were much wetter. During that time, Death Valley was filled with a huge lake, called Glacial Lake Manly, that was nearly 100 miles long and 600 feet deep.[19] Remnants of this wetter period can still be seen in the region today, including the presence of several isolated populations of pupfish that still call the region home.[20]


Death Valley is home to the Timbisha tribe of Native Americans, formerly known as the Panamint Shoshone, who have inhabited the valley for at least the past 1000 years. The Timbisha name for the valley, tümpisa, means "rock paint" and refers to the red ochre paint that can be made from a type of clay found in the valley. Some families still live in the valley at Furnace Creek. Another village was located in Grapevine Canyon near the present site of Scotty's Castle. It was called maahunu in the Timbisha language, the meaning of which is uncertain, although it is known that hunu means "canyon".

The valley received its English name in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It was called Death Valley by prospectors and others who sought to cross the valley on their way to the gold fields, although only one death in the area was recorded during the Rush. During the 1850s, gold and silver were extracted in the valley. In the 1880s, borax was discovered and extracted by mule-drawn wagons.

Death Valley National Monument was proclaimed on February 11, 1933 by President Hoover, placing the area under federal protection. In 1994, the monument was redesignated as Death Valley National Park, as well as being substantially expanded to include Saline and Eureka Valleys.

Notable locations

  • Myers Ranch
  • Emigrant Ranger Station
  • Mushroom Rock
  • Father Crowley Viewpoint
  • Ryan Widow
  • Russell Camp
  • Furnace Creek
  • Furnace Creek Campground
  • Furnace Creek Golf Course
  • Furnace Creek Inn
  • Furnace Creek Ranch
  • Grapevine Ranger Station
  • Wilson Ranch
  • Wildrose Ranger Station
  • West Side Borax Camp
  • Harmony Borax Works
  • Hells Gate
  • Hog Ranch
  • Lower Noonday Camp
  • Upper Noonday Camp
  • China Ranch
  • Ranch House Inn
  • Tecopa
  • Tecopa Hot Springs

See also




  1. ^ "Death Valley National Park". DesertUSA. 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  2. ^ Wright, John W. (ed.); Editors and reporters of The New York Times (2006). The New York Times Almanac (2007 ed.). New York, New York: Penguin Books. pp. 456. ISBN 0-14-303820-6. 
  3. ^ Celeste Cosby; Jeanette Hawkins; Jani Kushla; Molly Robinson (2009). "Boron Minerals of Death Valley". Clark Science Center, Smith College. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  4. ^ "Weather and Climate Death Valley National Park". U.S. National Park Service. July 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  5. ^ "Death Valley National Park - Weather and Climate". U.S. National Park Service. 23 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ a b National Park Service. "Death Valley - Weather and Climate". Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  8. ^ National Park Service. "Death Valley - Weather and Climate". Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  9. ^ WRCC. "Western U.S. Climate Historical Summaries Weather". Desert Research Institute. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  10. ^ WRCC. "Western U.S. Climate Historical Summaries Weather". Desert Research Institute. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  11. ^ Parzybok, Tye W. (2005). Weather Extremes of the West. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing COmpany. p. 103. ISBN 0-87824-473-3. 
  12. ^ WRCC. "STATE EXTREMES". Desert Research Institute. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  13. ^ WRCC. "General Climate Summary - Temperature". Desert Research Institute. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  14. ^ WRCC. "Monthly Climate Summary". Desert Research Institute. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  15. ^ National Park Service. "Death Valley - Weather and Climate". Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ WRCC. "Western U.S. Climate Historical Summaries Weather". Desert Research Institute. Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  18. ^ WRCC. "Western U.S. Climate Historical Summaries Weather". Desert Research Institute. Retrieved 2009-06-03. 
  19. ^ "Image of the Day: Lake Badwater, Death Valley". Earth Observing System. NASA. 18 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  20. ^ Phenotypic Plasticity of Death Valley's Pupfish

Further reading

  • Lingenfelter, Richard E.; Dwyer, Richard A. (1988). Death Valley Lore, Classic Tales of Fantasy, Adventure and Mystery. Reno: University of Nevada Press. ISBN 0874171369. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Death Valley National Park article)

From Wikitravel

North America : United States of America : California : Desert : Death Valley National Park
Dunes near Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley
Dunes near Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley

Death Valley National Park [1] is a United States National Park that is located primarily in the Southern California Desert, with a small portion extending into Nevada. Many potential visitors ignore the park due to the misconception that it is simply a lifeless, empty landscape, but this 3.4 million acre (14,000 km2) park is not only the largest park in the continental USA but also arguably one of the most striking specimens of Mother Earth. Nearly every major geological era is elegantly exposed here in what sometimes appears to be one of her greatest tapestries, gloriously presenting her full spectrum.

The valley itself is 130 miles (210 km) long, between six and 13 miles (10-21 km) wide and is surrounded by steep mountain ranges: the Panamint mountains to the west, and the Black, Funeral, and Grapevine mountains to the east. Its three million acres of wilderness and rich cultural history make it a lifetime's work to explore all that the valley has to offer.



The first non-Native Americans arrived in Death Valley in 1849 looking for a shortcut to the California gold fields. Although only one member of their party died, the name Death Valley was given to the area. Various mining operations used the valley afterwards, most notably for borax mining. When mining prospects went sour, the Pacific Coast Borax Company lobbied for federal protection of Death Valley, in order to develop tourism. President Hoover declared about two million acres of the area a national monument in 1933. In 1994 the monument was expanded by 1.3 million acres and declared a national park.


Death Valley National Park is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere and one of the hottest places in the world. It is also a vast geological museum, containing examples of most of the earth's geological eras. Death Valley National Park includes all of Death Valley, a 130-mile-long north/south-trending trough that formed between two major block-faulted mountain ranges: the Amargosa Range on the east and the Panamint Range on the west. Telescope Peak, the highest peak in the Park and in the Panamint Mountains, rises 11,049 feet above sea level and lies only 15 miles from the lowest point in the United States in the Badwater Basin salt pan, 282 feet below sea level. The California Desert Protection Act added most of the Saline, Eureka, northern Panamint, and Greenwater valleys to the Park.

Flora and fauna

Animal life is varied, and numerous species of reptiles, birds and mammals populate Death Valley, adapting well to the desert environment. However, many of these animals have a nocturnal lifestyle in order to escape the searing climate and can be difficult to spot.

Desert wildflowers near Stovepipe Wells after a late winter rain.
Desert wildflowers near Stovepipe Wells after a late winter rain.

The largest native mammal in the area, and perhaps the best studied member of the fauna, is the desert bighorn sheep. Small herds of sheep are most commonly found in the mountains surrounding Death Valley but at least occasionally visit the valley floor. Look for these animals near the springs and seeps that can be found throughout the park.

Over 350 species of birds are now known to inhabit or visit the area. And even native fish are to be found in Death Valley - several forms of desert pupfish of the genus Cyprinodon live in Salt Creek and other permanent bodies of water.


Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world. Air temperatures over 120 °F (49 °C) are common during the summer months of June, July, August and September. The record high in the park was recorded in 1913 at a blazing 134 °F (57 °C). This is second only to a 136 °F (58 °C) temperature taken in Libya in 1922. Since it is often up to four degrees hotter near Badwater than it is near Furnace Creek where the official record was recorded, it is entirely likely that Death Valley should hold the title as the hottest place on Earth.

Fortunately, temperatures from November through March are mild with highs averaging in the 60s and 70s (15-25) with winter nighttime lows usually in the 40s (5). This makes the winter and early spring the best seasons to visit.

Sun-baked sand in Death Valley
Sun-baked sand in Death Valley

Very little rain falls in the valley, but rainfall in the mountains often sends floodwaters roaring down narrow canyons, scouring boulders, rocks and soil along the way and eventually depositing them in the valley. These deposits are evident in the form of gigantic Alluvial fans seen throughout the valley. Many of these fans reach over a mile wide and are the product of hundreds and thousands of years of this process. The granular structure of these fans is also interesting to note as you will commonly see the larger boulders near the top of these structures and as you go further and further down, the granularity becomes finer and finer until you are finally left with the salts on the valley floor!

The higher elevations of the Panamint Range reach up to 11,049 feet (3,368 m) at Telescope Peak and are usually covered with snow from November to May, making a breathtaking backdrop to this unique desert climate.

A land of extremes and superlatives, there are locations within the park that allow the visitor to see both the lowest and highest elevations in the 48 contiguious United States on a clear day. As far as US phenomena occur, not only does it feature the hottest recorded temperature, but also reports the lowest annual precipitation, the tallest sand dunes, and at 13,628 square kilometers, is the largest National Park in the 48 contiguous United States.

Death Valley area map.
Death Valley area map.

By plane

McCarran International Airport (IATA: LAS) [2] in Las Vegas is the closest commercial airport to Death Valley.

There are also two small airstrips within the park for private plane access.

By train

The nearest city with an Amtrak station is Barstow, which is served by the Southwest Chief [3] Chicago - Los Angeles route.

By car

From Las Vegas or Barstow you will need to rent a car as there is no public transportation to and from the park. (If you get stranded in the park, you can have a rental car delivered from Pahrump, about one hour away in Nevada.)

From the East:

  • Take CA 190 west from Death Valley Junction 20 miles into the park.
  • From US 95 in Nevada, take NV 374 west from Beatty 19 miles into the Valley.

From the West:

  • Going north on US 395 take CA 190 east from Olancha, through Panamint Springs and over Towne Pass (elevation 4956 feet). This road is steep and narrow along some sections and is slow going for vehicles pulling trailers.
  • Going south on US 395 take CA 136 east from Lone Pine to CA 190 east through Panamint Springs and proceed as above.

From the North:

  • From US 95 in Nevada, take NV 267 west from Scotty's Junction 26 miles towards Scotty's Castle.

When traveling from Las Vegas, proceed north on US 95 to Lathrop Wells. Then proceed south on NV 373 for 23 miles to Death Valley Junction. Then proceed west on CA 190 for 20 miles to the park entrance.

Many other more adventurous routes into the park are also available particularly for high clearance and 4x4 vehicles. The route in from the Eureka Dunes in the north is notable along with the route from the Panamint Valley through Emigrant Pass from the southwest and the southern route on CA 178 west from Shoshone.

From the South:

  • From I-15 take the exit for CA 127 when you reach the tiny town of Baker. Proceed north on CA 127 for 56 miles to the microscopic town of Shoshone. Just one mile north of Shoshone is the turnoff for CA 178 which leads you into the Park.
  • If you want to go to Badwater go west on CA 178 for 56 more miles. The road will cease to be CA 178 after several miles and after that the condition deteriorates quickly. The road is pretty bad at times for many miles and can't be driven at high speeds. The condition eventually becomes better a few miles south of Badwater. Avoid using this route at night if possible.
  • If you don't want to take the shortcut to Badwater you can continue north on CA 127 for 27 miles when it meets with CA 190 and enter the park from there.

Note: Some roads in the park can occasionally be snowed in at the passes and may require chains in the winter. Please reference the Death Valley Morning Report [4] for current weather and road conditions.

Note on routes: "CA 127" means "California State Route 127" and "NV 373" means "Nevada State Route 373." The signs for each state are different. Nevada has a rectangular sign with a white shape of the state with black numbers while California's signs are in the shape of a spade and green with white numbers.


A seven day pass with unlimited re-entry is $20 for a standard vehicle (car/truck/van) and $10 for each individual traveling on foot, motorcycle, or bicycle. However, individuals planning to visit many different National Parks in the USA may save money by purchasing a National Parks Pass for $80; this pass allows free entry to all national park areas.

Get around

A car is highly recommended although during the more temperate seasons such as the fall and spring a nice bike ride may be in order. But beware that climatic conditions in the park can be extreme so always check the Death Valley Weather [5] forecast prior to entering and plan your activities accordingly.

It is also important to note that this and most other weather forecasts for the park refer to locations within the low altitude portion of the park and weather conditions at higher elevations can be dramatically different.

The paved roads within the park are well-maintained and accessible to vehicles of all kind, but dirt roads (with the exception of the west side around around the Badwater Salt Flats) are rough, difficult tracks that generally require a vehicle with moderately high clearance and (preferably) four-wheel drive. Expect excessive washboarding, erosion, large rocks, and uneven surfaces when traveling on the park's dirt roads.

  • Artist Drive. The rocks within this section of the park have been stained myriad colors by minerals within, creating a view that resembles an artist's palette.
  • Badwater. At 282 feet below sea level, it's the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. A boardwalk and signs provide info on the local environment, and a trail leads out onto the salt flats.
Devil's Golf Course
Devil's Golf Course
Historical locomotive for Borax-carrying in the Death Valley (Furnace-Creek-Museum), USA, in June 1993
Historical locomotive for Borax-carrying in the Death Valley (Furnace-Creek-Museum), USA, in June 1993
  • Dante's View. Spectacular view from an overlook just a mile or two away from Badwater, but 4000 feet taller. The road to Dante's View is a bit long, but the view is worth it. If you are towing a trailer, a parking lot is provided for you to leave your trailer behind before ascending the most difficult part of the road to Dante's View.
  • Devil's Cornfield
  • Devil's Golf Course. A bizarre landscape consisting of a vast field of salt crystals. Please admire these carefully! A slight touch can break the crystals, which often take years to re-form.
  • Echo Canyon4WD road just east of Furnace Creek.
  • Mustard Canyon. A popular hike located just north of Furnace Creek through a brilliantly-colored canyon. The best view is from the very end of the trail, which requires traversing through some narrow canyon walls and over ladders. Star Wars fans may recognize this place as Jawa hideouts from Episode IV.
  • Mushroom Rock. This oddly shaped rock is on the road south of Furnace Creek.
  • Natural Bridge. Travel south from Furnace Creek. Natural Bridge is just east of the main road via a dirt road. This natural bridge in a narrow canyon was created when erosion managed to undercut a section of the stream bed and eventually create a bridge well above the bottom of the canyon.
  • Salt Creek. Travel north from Furnace Creek. Salt Creek is about two miles west of the main road via an easy dirt road. This place is great. Long ago Death Valley was a lake with fish in it; as the lake dried up and salinity increased the fish evolved to cope. Now they are restricted to a short, salty creek which springs up out of the desert, flows for a few hundred yards, and then disappears back into the sand.
  • Visitor Center And Museum. At Furnace Creek. When visiting Death Valley, start here and you may discover that some sight you hadn't been interested in turns out to really interest you. Or just figure out which of these many places you should really visit.
  • Zabriskie Point. Famous viewpoint loved by photographers just east of Furnace Creek. View overlooks interesting weathered canyons. View is a two minute walk from the parking lot.
Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point
  • Aguereberry Point
  • Amargosa Opera House
  • Cottonwood Canyon
  • Darwin Falls. A 15-foot waterfall that is particularly interesting in Spring. Traveling west of Panamint Springs on SR 190, turn left onto a dirt road that goes up a wash just before SR 190 starts climbing uphill. After about half a mile of dirt, gravel and rocks, there is a small parking lot. From the parking lot, hike about half a mile to a mile further into the canyon. Since this is the drinking water supply for Panamint Springs, please do not jump in, no matter how tempting it is.
  • Death Valley Buttes
  • Greenwater Ruins
  • Grotto Canyon
  • Marble Canyon. A popular hiking destination. While accessible only by a long, sandy road followed by a techincal rock crawl through a wash, this hike is worth the headache (or fun) of getting to the base of the trail. Before you go, consult rangers about the location of various petrogylphs along the canyon walls. Though some have been vandalized recently, many are in pristine condition.
  • Mosaic Canyon. This popular hike in the center of the park winds through a narrow, marbled canyon. Some climbing and scaling of slick marbled rock is required.
  • Sand Dunes. Near Stovepipe Wells. Most people think sand dunes are common in the desert. They aren't. There are two interesting areas of sand dunes in Death Valley. The largest is Eureka Dunes, accessible only to adventurous backcountry folks. This smaller set of dunes near Stovepipe Wells is still quite impressive.
  • Stovepipe Well
  • Scotty's Castle (Death Valley Ranch). A strange story about the creation of elaborate mansion in the valley involving sickness, fraud, and tall tales.
  • Titus Canyon. An unimproved road into Death Valley that begins just west of Beatty (the road to Titus canyon heads north from the normal paved route from Beatty into Death Valley). Titus canyon is narrow, deep and spectacular. Due to narrowness, parts of this road are one-way, so you really need to start from the east end of the road. You don't need an off-road vehicle for this, normal cars should do fine, but don't bring the RV.
  • Ubehebe Crater. Located in the northern part of the park near Scotty's Castle, this giant crater was formed by volcanic activity. Walking trails lead into and around the crater, but be warned - going down into the crater is a difficult undertaking, and it may be best to enjoy the view from the top.
Eureka Sand Dunes
Eureka Sand Dunes
  • Barker Ranch. Charles Manson and his followers were captured here in 1969. The backcountry road up - which includes several rock falls - will make you wonder how Charles Manson got a school bus through. Many visitors who make the difficult trek stay overnight in the cabin here.
  • Charcoal Kilns
  • Crankshaft Junction
  • Desolation Canyon. Because it is not marked from the road, and not well marked on the map, a hike through this canyon offers solitude even beyond that of what is a very quiet park to begin with. The canyon isn't much to look at for the first 1/2 mile of the hike from the parking area, but beyond that, there is much to explore.
  • Emigrant Canyon
  • Eureka Sand Dunes. Tucked away in the north part of the park, accessible only by tens of miles of dirt road, these are the second tallest dunes in the United States. Don't let their out-of-the-way location deter you from visiting, however. The solitude only adds to the otherworldliness of the wind-swept sands, the highly rare Eureka Grass blades grasping for life in the dry mounds, and the panoramic view of the colorful Last Chance and Saline Ranges which flank the dunes on either side.
  • Ibex Dunes. Well off the beaten path in the Southern end of the park, these are some of the most remote sand dunes in the American West. Mountains flank the dunes to the west and east, making both sunrise and sunset an event. The backcountry road here is rutted with arroyos, and like so many other places in the park, requires a four-wheel drive.
Racetrack Playa
Racetrack Playa
  • Pleasant Canyon and South Park Canyon 4wd Loop. The South Park Canyon portion near the Panamint Valley should be attempted only by experienced drivers with high clearance vehicles.
  • Racetrack Playa. As with many points of interest within the park, this one is not easily accessible. The main route consists of 27 miles of dirt road, beginning at the Ubehebe Crater in the northern part of the park. However, the effort is well-rewarded with a site of twilight-zone proportions. The Plestiocene-era lake bed, nearly three miles long and a mile wide, is so flat that it once used as a landing strip for drug smugglers. But the Racetrack is most famous for its "moving rocks": boulders whose erratic tracks remain visible for years. Though their movement has been tracked with GPS, no adequate explanation for it has been found. In the spring months, brine shrimp - which hibernate when the water dries up, only to emerge months or even years later - are sometimes visible in the muddy puddles here.
  • Tea Kettle Junction. Located in the backcountry near the Racetrack Playa, this signpost is decorated with numerous tea kettles and makes for a rather odd sight in the vast desert.
  • Telescope Peak. Highest point in the park at 11,049 feet.
  • Hiking. There are numerous trails within the park, ranging in difficulty from short loops to overnight, mountainous treks. Always bring sufficient water when hiking in Death Valley; the heat can kill.
  • Photography. The odd geologic formations in the park are great for early morning and late evening photography, although during the day the harsh sun tends to wash out most photographs. During March and April the wildflowers within the valley bloom, making it a particularly photogenic time of year.
  • Stargazing. The clear desert air, scarcity of clouds, and and lack of nearby light pollution makes Death Valley an ideal spot for stargazing. Ideally come during a new moon to fully appreciate the darkness of the night sky.
  • Four-wheel driving. Death Valley has numerous high-clearance roads that offer a challenge for four-wheel drive enthusiasts. Driving off-road is not permitted.
  • Bicycling. Bicycles are allowed on all roads in the park, including the many rough, trail-like backcountry roads that attract four-wheel drive enthusiasts. As with motor vehicles, riding off-road is not permitted.
  • Scotty's Castle Tours. Tours of the home of an eccentric resident of Death Valley are offered daily from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM, departing at least once an hour and lasting for fifty minutes. Costs are $11 per person (discounts for seniors and children) and there may be a wait for tickets, so try to purchase them several hours in advance of your preferred tour time. Note that tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Badwater ultramarathon. Only for the truly insane, the 135 mile course from Badwater (elevation -282 feet) to the Mt. Whitney trailhead (elevation 8360 feet) is billed as the world's toughest race. Adding to the difficulty, the race is held annually during July, the hottest month of the year. In 2004, 72 people toed the starting line, and 57 battered, burned, and exhausted souls officially finished by crossing the finish line within 60 hours (the course record is just over 25 hours). For those with a death wish, more info can be found at [6].
  • Furnace Creek Visitor's Center
  • Furnace Creek Inn Gift Shop
  • Furnace Creek Ranch General Store
  • Borax Museum
  • Stovepipe Wells General Store
  • Scotty's Castle Gift Shop


Although you can get gas in the park it typically costs up to a dollar more per gallon than outside the park. It is recommended to fuel up right outside the park before coming in. But once in the park, don't try to squeak out with just enough gas as the results can be fatal if you are stuck in the wilderness or just plain costly if you need to get gas brought to you by a tow truck.

  • Furnace Creek Gas Station, 8AM-6PM (24 hours a day by credit card) on SR 190
  • Stovepipe Wells Gas Station, 8AM-6PM on SR 190 (24 hours a day by credit card, regular gas only, usually cheapest in Death Valley proper)
  • Scotty's Castle Gas Station, 7AM-6PM on SR 267 (Currently Closed, Call NPS for More Information)
  • Furnace Creek Inn Dining Room. The only upscale restaurant in Death Valley, very elegant, with a somewhat laid back dress code. Closed for summer season. Reservations are required for dinner and Sunday brunch. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is served. Call 760-786-2345 for reservations.
  • 49'er Cafe. Located in Furnace Creek Ranch, this restaurant is less upscale than the Furnace Creek Inn or the Wrangler Steakhouse, but offers decent food with dinner entrees starting around $10.
  • Wrangler Buffet. Located in Furnace Creek Ranch at the ranch, the buffet is served daily for breakfast and lunch and offers a variety of hot and cold items.
  • Wrangler Steakhouse. Located in Furnace Creek Ranch, this upscale restaurant offers steaks and other entrees starting around $25. Open for dinner only.
  • Stovepipe Wells. Restaurant and convenience store.
  • Corkscrew Saloon. Located in Furnace Creek Ranch and providing a cowboy atmosphere, the drink prices are reasonable ($5 for a beer) and the crowd combines retired tourists with Death Valley locals, creating an interesting mix.



Within the park

There are 4 in-park lodging facilities in Death Valley National Park.

  • Furnace Creek Inn. [7] This inn advertises itself as a first class, AAA Four Diamond historic resort with 66 rooms and full amenities. Rates range from $250-$370 per room with $20 per each additional person. Closed during summer season. 760-786-2345
  • Furnace Creek Ranch. [8] Located in Furnace Creek, this establishment is the ranch style family oriented version of the above Inn with 224 rooms and rates ranging from $105 to $174 depending on the season and type of room. 760-786-2345
  • Panamint Springs Resort. [9] Located outside of the park, this resort is the most economical lodging option. The rooms are small and very out dated. Rates range from $79 to $149. 775-482-7680
  • Stovepipe Wells Village. [10] Motel-style lodging in Stovepipe Wells. The rooms are not fancy, and the running water in some rooms is not potable, but it is a perfectly comfortable and convenient place to stay. Rates tend to be cheaper than at Furnace Creek ($111 for a Deluxe room). Beware of the restaurant at Stovepipe Wells, though; it tends to be wannabe fancy and overpriced. Call early for reservations at the lodge. 760-786-2387

Outside of the park

  • Death Valley Junction is the closest town outside of Death Valley, about thirty minutes away from the visitor's center it has one hotel, and a theatre.
  • Beatty is a town outside (northeast) of Death Valley. It's a very cheap option.
  • Lone Pine is two hours west of the park in California.
  • Shoshone is an hour southeast of the park in California.
  • Furnace Creek (Year round). Located 196 feet below sea level, Furnace Creek has 136 sites with water, tables, fireplaces, flush toilets, and dump station. No showers, but nearby Furnace Creek Ranch offers pool and shower for $5 per day. Furnace Creek is $18 per night during the winter season and $12 a night during the summer.
  • Mahogany Flat (Closed in winter). Mahogany Flat is located at 8,200 feet in the Panamint Mountains and is accessible to high clearance vehicles only. Depending upon road conditions, 4-wheel drive may be necessary. The campground has 10 sites, tables, fireplaces, and pit toilets. Mahogany Flat is free.
  • Mesquite Spring (Year Round). Located at 1,800 feet 3 miles from Scotty's Castle, Mesquite Spring has 30 sites with water, tables, fireplaces, flush toilets, and a dump station. The fee is $12 a night.
  • Stovepipe Wells (Closed in summer). Located at sea level, Stovepipe Wells has 190 sites with water, some tables, some fireplaces, flush toilets, and dump station. $12 per night.
  • Stovepipe Wells RV Campground (Year Round). This RV campground is managed by the Stovepipe Wells Resort. It has 14 sites with full hook-ups and no tables or fireplaces. A swimming pool and showers are available. No Reservations, first come first served, and the sites are $23 a night.
  • Sunset (Closed in summer). Located at 190 feet below sea level, Sunset has 1000 sites with water, flush toilets, and dump station. NO Fires Allowed. Sunset is $12 per night.
  • Texas Spring (Closed in summer). Located at sea level, Texas Spring has 92 sites with water, tables, fireplaces, flush toilets, and dump station. Texas Spring is first come first served with self registration. From March 17th through April 15th, Texas Spring is designated primarily for tent camping with a limited number of RV sites. The fee is $14 per night. For the summer, reservations for the two Texas Springs campground group sites are available by calling (760) 786-3247.
  • Thorndike (Closed in winter). Thorndike is located at 7,400 feet in the Panamint Mountains and is accessible to high clearance vehicles only. Depending on road conditions, 4-wheel drive may be necessary. Thorndike has 6 sites, tables, fireplaces, and pit toilets. Thorndike is free. ATTN: Due to extreme fire danger, campfires are prohibited at Thorndike Campground until further notice!
  • Wildrose (Year round). Located at 4,100 feet in the Panamint Mountains, Wildrose has 23 sites, with tables, fireplaces, and pit toilets. Drinking water is available during the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Although it is windy enough that you'll need to take care to secure your campsite, it is still high enough in elevation that it presents more pleasant weather for camping than the valley floor. Being farther away from the more popular areas of the park induces a quieter setting as well. Wildrose is a free campground.


Backcountry camping is allowed 2 miles away from any developed area, paved road, or "day use only" area. Due to the rough dirt roads, backcountry roadside camping is generally only accessible to visitors with high clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicles, or well-equipped mountain bikes.

Stay safe

Follow Desert Survival guidelines. The name of the park says it all. Unprepared tourists die each year within the borders of the park. Make sure you have plenty of water (at least a gallon (4 liters) per day, per person) for your activities, whether it be on a backcountry trail, or on the main highway. Should you become stranded while driving, stay with your vehicle as it is likely to provide the only shade in the area. Pack plenty of water for you car in case of overheating, especially in summer! Rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders are present in the park. Never place your hands or feet where you cannot see first!

If you are going a significant distance on any of the unpaved roads, phone a friend and tell them where you are going, when you will be back, when you will phone them again to tell them you are safe, and give them an emergency number to call (760-786-2342) if you don't get back in touch with them by a chosen deadline. Some of the unimproved roads eat tires for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you could lose your spare tire too. In addition, make sure you have more than enough fuel; roads may be impassable and can require unforeseen detours. Don't rely on a GPS routing alone. Figure out where your going on the official national park map first, then make sure the GPS device exactly follows same route.

Cell phone service does not exist in most of the park, don't count on being able to use it in an emergency.


Free Wi-Fi internet access is available at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, but only when they are open.

There is no mobile phone access for most phones. Analog reception for Verizon Wireless customers is available close to Furnace Creek, but most modern phones are not capable of using the old analog system.

  • Mount Whitney. The tallest mountain in the lower forty-eight states, Mt. Whitney is located west of the park on highway 190.
  • Eastern Sierra. The Sierra Nevada mountains west of the park on highway 190 provide an ideal region for backpackers.
  • Las Vegas. America's playground, Sin City can be reached via numerous routes from the south and east exits of the park.
This is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun

Death Valley


Death Valley

  1. A valley in California and Nevada, remarkable for being the lowest-elevated place in North America.


  • French: Vallée de la mort f.
  • Italian: Valle della Morte f.
  • Russian: Долина Смерти (dolína sm'érti) f.

Simple English

File:Zabriskie Point at sunrise in Death Valley
The mountains around Death Valley

Death Valley is a valley in the U.S. state of California. It is the hottest, driest and lowest place in the USA.[1] It is a desert southeast of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Death Valley is a part of the Mojave Desert. It is the most important part of Death Valley National Park. It is an endorheic basin, which means that the rivers in it do not flow to the sea.



Death Valley has many famous and unusual geographical features in it. Some of these features include sand dunes, salt flats, colorful rocks, and tall mountains. Large parts of Death Valley are below sea level. One feature, named Badwater Basin, is the lowest place in North America. It is 282 feet (86 m) below sea level.[2] The salt flats are another famous feature in Death Valley. Salt flats are very unusual. They are large, flattened areas where the surface of the ground is covered by salt instead of dirt. The salt that makes up a salt flat can be many inches or centimeters deep. The salt flats were created because thousands of years ago, Death Valley was underwater. Death Valley was covered by a lake that was named Lake Manly by geologists (scientists who study the Earth). Lake Manly used to be very large, but changes in the weather caused the rivers that brought water into the lake to dry up. After a long time, the water in Lake Manly began to dry up too. As the water dried, it left behind all the minerals that the rivers had brought to it along with their water. As these minerals dried, they created a crust (a brittle outer layer) of salt and other minerals on top of the dirt. Many lakes and seas in other parts of the world dried up in the same way.

Traveling rocks

All across Death Valley, rocks and stones leave small paths behind them in curved, zigzagged, or straight patterns. The rocks are not alive, of course, but they still travel across the lake bed.[3][4].

Dr. Robert Sharp, a geology professor, decided to find out about these rocks. He put tags on 30 stones of different sizes and shapes, hammered spikes into the ground where the rocks were sitting, and then he studied what happened for the next seven years. Twenty eight of the stones did indeed move, sometimes more than six hundred feet. [5] Dr. Sharp matched the movements with the weather and found that the rocks moved because of wind and rain. Even though Death Valley gets less than two inches of rain a year, the raindrops make the smooth clay in the dry lake bed very smooth and slippery[5]. The wind then blows the rocks across the slippery surface, sometimes as fast as three feet every second.[5]


[[File:|thumb|right|Death Valley's sand dunes]] The changes in the weather that made the rivers dry up have not gone away. Death Valley is still very dry. There are less than two inches (50 mm) of rain in Death Valley every year. Because Death Valley is so dry all the time, even the dirt that is not covered in salt has become very hard. This means that even though it does not rain often, when it does rain, the dirt cannot absorb all the water quickly enough, and the water can turn into a flash flood (a flood that happens very fast and very violently). In August 2004 there was a very bad flood. The flood damaged many buildings and cars, and killed several people. The flood also destroyed many roads, so nobody could go in or out of Death Valley. Death Valley National Park had to be closed for a long time while the park rangers fixed everything.

Death Valley can be very hot or very cold. In the summer, the temperature can be 130°F (54°C). In the winter, it can be less than 32°F (0°C), and there is often snow. On July 10 1913, it was 134°F (57°C), which is the hottest recorded temperature in the United States and the second hottest on Earth.[1]


Death Valley was named in 1849. Miners and settlers tried to travel across the valley during the California Gold Rush. Many people died because it was so hot and dry. It has very little water because the water evaporates, or disappears in the clouds, before it can touch the ground. Of the few people who lived in Death Valley, most were miners, especially of borax.

Death Valley National Park

Much of Death Valley is part of Death Valley National Park. The park was designated as a national monument in 1933 and a national park in 1994. It contains 5,262 square miles in California and Nevada. Death Valley National Park is the largest wilderness area in the United States.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Death Valley National Park" (in English). Exploring the Southwest. DesertUSA. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  2. "Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California" (in English). The American Southwest. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  3. Adams, Simon, and Lesley Riley, eds. Reader's Digest Facts and Fallacies.New York: Reader's Digest Association, 1988
  4. Earth Science. United States of America: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 2001. pp. 211. ISBN 0-03-055667-8. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Robbins, Pat, ed. Why in the World> Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1985


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