Death Valley National Park


Death Valley National Park consists of 3.3 million acres of desert and mountains.  It is the largest national park in the contiguous United States.  The valley is really a basin 130 miles long and 5-25 miles wide, surrounded on the west by the Panamint Range and on the east by the Amargosa Range..  Elevations in the park range from 282 feet below sea level to 11,049 feet above sea level.

Death Valley makes a fabulous geology classroom—if one takes the time to explore and supplement that exploration by reading some of the easily accessible materials at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center or on the internet.  USGS Geology of Death Valley National Park

Shoreline Butte is to the west of the Badwater Road and the ruins of the Ashford Mill.  On the northeast flanks of this butte, one can see the strandlines of Lake Manly which filled the Valley during the last Ice Age, between 186,000-128,000 years ago.  At that time, Shoreline Butte was an island in a 100-mile long lake that was 600 feet deep.

About two miles north of the southern terminus of the West Side Road is the Split Cinder Cone.  The hike to the top is short (about 200 yards), but steep—a 35 degree angle.  The cone was created when, around 300,000 years ago, lava erupted at 2200° F and solidified into cinders before reaching the ground.  When within a few decades, the layers of cinders around the central vent grew too high, the sides collapsed, creating the cone.  It was “split” as a result of continuing forces along the Death Valley Fault zone.



In the northern end of the valley, Ubehebe Crater is the youngest volcano in the valley, formed only about 1,000 years ago.  The crater is 2400 feet in diameter and 750 feet deep.

Most of the hikes are along the east side of the valley at the base of the Amargosa range.  Since the basin slants down to the east, the alluvial fans are not as built up on this side.  Death Valley Hikes

Average rainfall in the Furnace Creek area is 1.82 inches per year.  Last year, they only had about ½ an inch.  The week before we were there they had around .6 inches and it rained again while we were there.  It even snowed as we were crossing Emigrant Pass (5,547 feet).   In case you can't read the sign in the picture on the left, it says "Radiator Water 1 mile."  The man in the picture on the right is mowing the lawn at Furnace Creek Ranch--in the rain!!!

A highlight of any visit to the Valley is the living history tour of Scotty's Castle.


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