The Beauty of Death Valley
One probably thinks of a desert as a dry, arid, inhospitable place with nothing surviving within. Who would have thought that a desert could have so many different spectacular sights within? Here in the southwest corner of the U.S. covering California and Nevada is the Death Valley National Park and its 3.4 million acres with over one million visitors per year. Formed over 200 million years ago when the earth's crust began shifting and the ocean plates to sink causing the tectonic plates to shift pushing mountains to form and the valley to sink.
It is the largest National Park in the U.S. and the hottest and driest among the states. Most of us know a human can survive three days without water but in Death Valley, that shrinks to 14 hours! Scary isn't it. The nearest city is Lone Pine, California and Beatty, Nevada. Years ago there was even a lake in the desert but it has long ago evaporated. The lowest point in the valley is 282 feet below sea level.
The Ancient Ones lived in the desert some 10,000 years ago and today, the Timbisha Native Americans Shone are now the recognized tribe of the U.S. and have been returned some 7000 acres to the tribe. They are known for their basket-making skills weaving them so tightly you could boil water in them. They built their homes near mesquite groves which were also home to small game animals. When the heat grew unbearable, they would move into the mountains and catch mule deer, bighorn sheep and jackrabbit for food.
Interesting Facts of Death Valley
- Rocks that appear to move by themselves. These rocks weigh 700 pounds and can travel 1500 feet. Scientists have determined it is probably due to moisture and cold nights forming a thin sheet of ice with the winds allowing them to move.
- The Road Runner is real and he is less than two feet tall weighing one pound and one of the hundreds of birds in Death Valley
- The Ubehehe Crater is 600 feet deep and half a mile wide probably formed 2100 years ago.
- Wildrose Charcoal Kilns were built in 1877 by American Indians, Hispanics, and Chinese workers to provide fuel for the resin smelters at the lead-silver mines until 1900.
- The pupfish found at Devils Hole and the only fish to survive in the 93-degree water and the world's rarest fish.
- Three venomous snakes are found in Death Valley. The desert night snake, California lyre, and the rattlesnake.
- The wildflowers are abundant and awash in colors.
- The ancient petroglyphs are found on the canyon walls.
The Legend of the Queen of Death Valley
Long ago, the Indians were ruled by a beautiful Queen. She ordered her subjects to build a mansion, one that would surpass the Aztecs. And because she was their queen, they labored dragging stones and logs from afar. As she grew older, she was worried the mansion wouldn't be completed before she died. She began lashing her subject on their backs and ordered her daughter to join in the construction. One day it was so unbearably hot the daughter dropped her load, turned to her mother and cursed her and the mansion, and then fell to the ground and died from exhaustion.
The queen knew she had gone too far, and slowly the subjects either died or left the area. Now the vegetation dried up, the animals left, the streams and wells dried up, and the queen fell ill, but no one was left to help her. She died alone in the unfinished mansion.
Harmony Borax Company and The Lost 49ers
The Harmony Borax Company operated from 1880-1889, mining three tons of the "white gold of Death Valley The product was used for antiseptic and detergent.
The group of the lost 49ers were searching for a way out of the desert and seemingly going around in circles. They were reduced to killing their oxen, burning the wagons for fuel to cook the meat and make jerky. Men from Rancho Mission finally rescued them close to Santa Clara Valley. Today, a monument stands in Burnt Wagon, California. They had been on their way to the goldfields in 1849 in California.."
Guided Tours and Books on Death Valley
A truly unique company with several different guided tours to fit your budget is Wildland Trekking Company. They can be reached at 1-800-715 HIKE (4453). They have been highly recommended.
A book, Hiking Death Valley National Park, by Bill Cunningham, gives insight information on hiking or backpacking and includes distances and degrees of difficulty for different trails.
The Visitors Center is located at Furnace Creek and has maps, water, and park information. Remember, LEAVE NO FOOTPRINTS, and respect the rules. Imagine having fun sand surfing at the Eureka Sans Dunes.
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on January 30, 2021:
Thank you so much for your visit, I truly appreciate it.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 29, 2021:
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 29, 2021:
Thank you for sharing this educational article, Fran. I don’t like visiting very hot environments, but I enjoyed learning about Death Valley by reading your article. You’ve shared some interesting and surprising facts.
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on January 29, 2021:
Liz, thank you so much for your visit. I appreciate your comments.
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on January 29, 2021:
Rosina, thanks for your visit. I found Death Valley very interesting. I appreciate your visit.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 29, 2021:
This is a very interesting and well-illustrated article. You have packed in a lot of information and background.
Rosina S Khan on January 29, 2021:
The Wonders of Death Valley are truly wonderful. I am especially intrigued by the "The Legend of the Queen of Death Valley" who abused her own daughter and was hard on the subjects about building the mansion and not living to materialize her dream, which was so deserving of her. All in all, an interesting article, Fran.