Death Valley National Park


Death Valley is the hottest, driest, and lowest National Park in the United States. The below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frequently covered in snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its ominous name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.

“King of the Desert” was a fitting nickname for the Keane Wonder Mine. Discovered in 1904, it produced more than a million dollars in gold from 1904 to 1917. By mining directly into the side of the mountain instead of the traditional shafts, and using a mile-long tram to transport the ore, this mine was able to operate with a good profit margin.

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. The salt flats here cover nearly 200 square miles (518 square km), and are composed mostly of sodium chloride (table salt), along with calcite, gypsum, and borax. 

Mesquite Dunes, named for the mesquite tree which grows in abundance in this area.

Twenty Mule Team Canyon – Recognize the landscape around Jabba the Hutts palace? Scenes from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi were filmed here.

Devils Golf Course – An immense area of rock salt eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires. So incredibly serrated that “only the devil could play golf on such rough links”. I could hear tiny metallic pops and pings everywhere here, from billions of tiny salt crystals bursting apart as they expand and contract in the heat.

The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns were completed in 1877 by the Modock Consolidated Mining Company to provide a source of fuel for their smelters. These ten beehive-shaped masonry structures are believed to be the best-known surviving example of such kilns to be found in the western states.

Zabriskie Point at sunrise. This is probably the most recognizable landscape of Death Valley NP. Beyond the badlands, views of the salt flats covering the floor of Death Valley are visible in the distance, with the hulk of the Panamint Mountains, towering above.  The most pronounced feature viewed from Zabriskie Point is Manly Beacon, named for one of the first 49ers to visit the area.

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