Death Valley is one of the most beautiful places in California, as well as a national wildlife refuge in the United States. It is located in eastern California, almost on the border with Nevada, and is a part of the Mojave desert, surrounded by mountains to the east and west. It takes about 2.5 hours one way from Las Vegas but it is worth it! This place is considered the hottest on earth. According to statistics, in July 1913, the temperature in the shade was 57 degrees Celsius. However, the devil is not as terrible as they say. The main thing is not to forget the water, lots of water. Death Valley is the largest national park outside Alaska (7,800 km²) . The peak season is in the spring months, when the flowers are blooming. The center of the park is Furnace Creek .
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Video: Death Valley
The very name of the park conjures up an image of all that is harshest and most horrible – a barren, desolate, lifeless place of Old Testament wilderness. But on closer inspection, you realize that Death Valley’s nature puts on a spectacular show: there are water-carved canyons, singing sand dunes, palm-fringed oases, weathered mountains, and a variety of local wildlife.
It’s always incredibly dry and hot in Death Valley. The air is constantly full of the tiniest grains of sand. In the summer, the temperature can easily go over 49 degrees Celsius. Although only a few hundred kilometers from here to the Pacific coast, this is one of the driest regions in the world. The vapor-laden air blown in from the ocean rains long before it reaches these areas.
The Famous Moving Rocks of Death Valley
Despite the harsh and sometimes dangerous conditions, Death Valley is not at all uninhabited. Archaeologists continually discover cave paintings, remains of hearths, and other traces of human occupation. Nowadays, however, only a small tribe of Timbish-Shoshon clan in Furness Creek Ranch lives there permanently.
In Death Valley, you’ll find a dozen different landscapes, not a dreary landscape of sand dunes, but an endless variety of terrain, rock formations, colors, and vegetation. In winter, the valley offers a carpet of spring flowers that bloom after the rare rains. But above all the light is fascinating, incomprehensibly transparent, distorting perspective, pink at dawn, milky in the morning, silvery in the afternoon and increasingly taking on a golden hue in the afternoon.
Geologically speaking, Death Valley is a relatively young formation, only a few million years old. And yet its brief geologic past has been a rich one. At least four periods of volcanic activity followed by three or four periods of sedimentation have shaped its landscape. In addition, there has been increased tectonic activity at times and glaciers have struck twice.
Sightseeing in Death Valley
The ghost town of Rhyolite
There are about five thousand abandoned cities in the United States. Located mostly in the west of the country, they have at least two things in common: most of these towns have no people living in them, but each has at least one good or evil spirit.
I recommend starting your trip to Death Valley from Las Vegas on the Nevada side, with a visit to the ghost town of Rhyolite, an old, long abandoned town of prospectors and miners – whose unusual sculptures are stunning. It is probably the fastest changing town – at the beginning of the last century it was home to 16,000 people, had a station where three major railroads intersected and where the silver ore was shipped towards the coast. Only a few buildings have survived, including the Botlle House, built of beer bottles held together by cement. If you believe one of the few residents of the city, it is home to musical spirits. Sometimes at night they wake up the old-timers by playing their invisible brass band. Meanwhile, it is known for a fact that the orchestra last played in Riolaita in 1910. It is now a haunted place.
Not far from Riolight begins a one-way road that leads to Titus Canyon. As you wind your way higher and higher into the Grapevine mountains, the road begins to twist and turn and you want to get out of the car – you can’t believe you can drive through this sloped, hilly lane and still be alive. Drive through White Pass, briefly pausing at Red Pass, then descending to another ghost town – Leadfield – and leaving the trailhead behind.
Titus Canyon Titus Canyon
After a hundred and one turns and a hairpin bend up or down, you’ll see a sign telling you you’ve reached Titus Canyon. Everything around you changes – the road narrows as if it is failing, the dark walls around you rise like stone guards. The temperature also rises, and the sun begins to burn, you can stop where you like and stare at the petroglyphs.
A few more turns, and the Valley spreads out before you – a parched space with lilac patches of mountains and a gray ribbon of paved road, which is lost in a quicksilver haze.
In the northernmost part of the Valley, in a small ravine, is a Spanish-style castle built in the early 20th century by Chicago insurance magnate Albert Johnson. Surrounded by green, lush groves and lawns, the manor house looks fantastic, especially against the backdrop of the harsh nature of these places.
The history of the castle is funny and mysterious at the same time. In the mid-twenties, Scotty Walter announced that he had found untold gold lodes in the Death Valley area and that he needed financial help to develop the mines. That’s when Albert Johnson shows up and agrees to finance such a lucrative venture. Is it necessary to mention, that there were no gold mines in the Valley before.
Scotty’s Castle Scotty’s Castle Scotty’s Castle
A couple of years later, Johnson, determined to test his “investment,” writes a letter to Scotty about his intention to visit the mines. Deciding that it is in the bag, Scopes invites the banker to visit Death Valley in the middle of July, when the temperature is over 50 degrees. It should be noted that Albert was not in good health: he suffered from asthma, rheumatism, and God knows what, nevertheless he came to California in mid-July. After wandering around Death Valley for a couple of months and not finding (naturally) any gold mines, he found something more: health! The hot, dry desert air cured all his ailments. The beauty of this rugged place so enchanted him that Johnson came to the Valley with his wife, Bessie, on a regular basis.
Bessie was not thrilled with living in a tent next door to snakes, scorpions, and other desert inhabitants. Then Johnson decides to build a suitable residence for his wife, a Moorish-style castle. Construction of the castle began in 1929.
You may ask: but why is the castle called by the name of Scotty, if the owner was Johnson? Very simple. The fact is that Scottie, being by then a great friend of the Johnson family, giving interviews to journalists, claimed that the castle – it is his, and it is built on money from the sale of gold. And the gold mine is just under the house. Albert Johnson only chuckled at Scopey’s claims, finding them amusing. And so the three of them lived in the castle: the Johnson family and Scopey, the storyteller par excellence.
To this day, the castle is an example of engineering. There was air conditioning, electricity, plumbing, huge cold rooms in the castle (considering the house was built in the 1930s – that’s not a small thing) .
The name of the crater in the language of the local Shoshone Indians means “Big Basket”. The crater was formed as a result of groundwater meeting with rising magma. The water instantly turned into steam and literally tore the surface, sending debris high into the sky and covering the hills with black ash. A spectacular sight will be on your left side.
Racetrack Valley looks more like a washboard, it’s difficult to drive on it, you can only crawl – the car shakes so much that it seems at times – it’s about to fall apart. But the upcoming picture is worth it! Rocks of different sizes, leaving behind a crawling trail on the dried ground – the sight is fantastic! They constantly change their location, as if someone’s invisible hand is pushing them. The last 50 years of research have yielded little in the way of an explanation of how hundreds of stones, from small to quite weighty, can move in different directions, leaving behind a muddy furrow, turning, crossing their own trail, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups. There have been various hypotheses about the nature of this phenomenon: the stones slide on a thin crust of ice, which is often formed on the surface of the plain; they are moved by the wind when the plain is moistened in a certain way, and so on. But none of these has yet been proven.
Devil’s Golf Course
When you see the Devil’s Golf Course, you feel as if you are on another planet. Petrified salt, corroded by years of rain and wind, mixed with clay, and caked in the sun into a glassy mass of sharp salt peaks, covers this section of the valley as a brownish mess, resembling from a distance a ploughed field, humorously called a golf course. If such a salt peak is hit hard with a hammer or a knife, a piece of it breaks off with the sound of shattered glass.
Bad Water Lake
Salt Lake Badwater (Bad Water) is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (the lowest in the world at the Dead Sea) and simultaneously the hottest place on Earth. The salt lake evaporates by May, turning into a white cracked surface with interesting salt patterns. Nearby is a classic sandy desert with dunes, snakes, and coyotes. It’s an unusual feeling to go behind the dune so that the road and car are out of sight. The lunar landscape all around without the slightest hint of human activity. So nice to be alone in this element, knowing that a few steps and you’ll be back in civilization with the Internet and ATMs.
Dante View is a flat-topped peak rising over Death Valley at 1,669 m, giving you an absolutely stunning view of Death Valley. The shimmering white salts of Badwater Lake, the snaking strip of highway, and the contrasting red and gray slopes of the Panamint Mountains that surround the Valley on the other side spread out before you.
This view makes you think of all things, of the fragility of human life, of the beauty that can sometimes be deadly.
Usually a visit to Death Valley is timed to coincide with a trip to Las Vegas. Either drive east on Interstate 95, turning off at Death Valley Junction onto Highway 190, or continue north through Vitti, Nevada on Highway 58.
Before you begin your journey through the best parts of Death Valley, be sure to ask which roads may be washed out. This will help you save time on your trip. The best time to see the Valley is in the early morning or evening. The fact is that the sun’s rays are reflected off the salt strata and surrounding mountains, so almost everything around seems faded and lifeless. Plus all the heat, which leaves only one desire – to get in the car, turn on full power air conditioner and as quickly as possible to get away from here away.
Don’t let the name “Death Valley” mislead you. It was the name given to the hapless people who decided to try their luck during the gold rush and had to endure great hardship as they drove through Arizona and Nevada. The oasis of Furness Creek is now well established to accommodate tourists. But when crossing the desert in the summer, stay on the main road and wait for a police patrol car if your car breaks down. Also, stock up on gasoline and drinking water.
Camping in Death Valley
Lodging in the park is expensive, and, especially in spring, everything is booked well in advance. The closest town with inexpensive hotels is Beatty, Nevada (70.4 km from Furness Creek), but there are more choices in Las Vegas (192 km southeast) and Ridgecrest (195.2 km west).
There are nine campgrounds in Death Valley (tent sites $0-18), but they fill up by mid-morning, especially on weekends. Only Furnace Creek (mid-April to mid-October) has reservations (phone: 877-444-6777; www.recreation.gov). In summer, Furnace Creek sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Other campgrounds that work are Mesquite Spring, near Scotty’s Castle, and campgrounds along Emigrant Canyon Rd, west of Stovepipe Wells. Some sites are accessible only by high clearance vehicle. Campgrounds at the bottom of the valley – Stovepipe Wells by the road, Sunset, and shady Texas Springs – provide space primarily for RVs; they are open from October through April.
Camping in remote areas (campfires are prohibited) is allowed within 3.2 miles of paved roads, away from developed infrastructure and tourist areas and 100 yards from any water source; free permits are available at the visitor center.
There are public showers at Furness Creek Ranch and at Stovepipe Wells Village ($5, including pool admission) .
Why is Death Valley National Park so named?
Death Valley is a national wildlife refuge in the United States, in eastern California, and is the lowest place in America.
Death Valley is located in the state of California. It extends 225 kilometers long and 8 to 24 kilometers wide. The desert is exactly the same as its nickname because of the unusually harsh and extreme conditions prevailing there.
On our planet this place is recognized as the hottest and driest, for which it was named the “Valley of Death.
Temperatures can reach up to 57 degrees Celsius.
Rain in the desert
The average annual rainfall is about 50 mm. In some years, it doesn’t rain at all. Lake Bedouter, located in the valley, is the lowest place in North America. Mount Whitney, towering 140 kilometers from the lake, on the contrary, is considered the highest point.
In the 19th century, gold prospectors came to the area, founding settlements with original names such as “Froggy Bull” or “Get Out of Here.” When the reserves of mines were exhausted, these settlements were abandoned, turning into ghost towns. Today the “ghost towns” have entertainment centers and amusement rides.
The park was declared a natural monument in 1993.
Since 1994 and until today Death Valley is the largest National Park in the United States.
Visitors to the park can take jeep tours through the picturesque parts of the valley, mountaineering, and hiking. The town of Furness Creek offers restaurants, hotels and even swimming pools.
Boiling Life in the Park
Lifeless Valley can not be called. The desert is home to hundreds of varieties of animals. The largest representative of mammals is the snow ram, which descends into the valley from the neighboring mountains.
Among the desert inhabitants are coyotes, cougars, badgers, snakes, desert tortoises and lizards.
The most hardy inhabitants of the valley are recognized kangaroo rats. They don’t need water at all. Their activity falls on the night time and rats hide in their burrows from the heat of the day.
For months or even decades, plant seeds wait for the right time. When the right amount of rain falls, the valley seems to be covered with a bright carpet woven from a million flowers. Among them you can see lilacs, sunflowers, poppies, delphiniums, orchids and more. The fragrance of the valley begins to fragrance, attracting thousands of bees and insects. This time is truly called a miracle of nature.
The Valley of Moving Rocks is recognized as a desert phenomenon. So nicknamed the bottom of the former Lake Racetrack – Playa. In the most mysterious way, massive boulders weighing up to several tens of kilograms crawl along the clay bed of the dried lake.
Scientists have been trying to solve this mystery for decades. Some suggest scientific explanations, but there are those who are sure of the supernaturalness of the phenomenon.
Also on the territory of the park is a geological phenomenon called Devil’s Hole.
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Death Valley or Death Valley is an intermountain depression and in fact a huge desert in the southwestern United States, located on the border of California and Nevada, and Death Valley is 86 meters below sea level.