Death Valley

Facts about Death Valley

We found 12 facts about Death Valley

One of the hottest places on Earth

Death Valley is a desert area located in the western part of the US, mainly in California, although it also reaches into the state of Nevada. It is one of the hottest places on Earth and one of the lowest places in North America, representing an unremarkable part of our planet, full of contrasts and extremes.

Surrounded by high mountain ranges, this California desert fascinates not only by its name but also by its remarkable history, nature, and unique climate.

Death Valley is regarded as one of the most challenging environments, where life resists extreme temperatures reaching frightening levels in summer.

However, it is a place that impresses with its rugged beauty, distinct landscape, and unique flora and fauna that have found ways to survive in this extreme environment.

Death Valley
Death Valley is a desert valley in eastern California, an area of drainless depression in the northern part of the Mojave Desert.

The Mojave Desert is located mostly in the eastern part of the state of California, as well as in the states of Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, in the southern part of the Great Basin (a drainless area between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada mountains – a plateau of 520.000 square kilometers).

Death Valley is believed to be the hottest place on Earth in the summer.

It has a subtropical, hot desert climate with long, very hot summers, short, warm winters, and little rainfall.

The highest air temperature ever recorded in Death Valley was 56,7 degrees Celsius, and occurred on 10th July 1913, at Greenland Ranch (now Furnace Creek), as of 2022 is the highest atmospheric temperature ever recorded on the Earth’s surface (although some modern meteorologists question the accuracy of the 1913 measurements).

The highest surface temperature ever recorded in Death Valley was 93,9 degrees Celsius, and occurred on 15th July 1972, at Furnace Creek. This is the highest ground surface temperature ever recorded on Earth.

The lowest temperature ever recorded on 2nd January 1913, at the Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley was -9 degrees Celsius.

The climate of Death Valley is strongly influenced by the depth and shape of the valley.

The valley is a long, narrow basin descending below sea level, which is surrounded by high, steep mountain ranges. The highest mountain range is the Panamint range, which forms the western wall of Death Valley, whose highest peak is Telescope Peak at 3368 meters above sea level. The Panamint range separates Death Valley from Panamint Valley to the west, and Death Valley borders the Amargosa range to the east.

The lowest point in North America is Badwater Basin, a small salt lake in Death Valley.

The site, considered the lowest point in North America and the US, lies 86 meters below sea level. The site was considered the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere until the discovery of Lake Laguna del Carbon in Argentina, whose surface is 105 meters below sea level. It is the lowest point in Argentina, South America, the Western Hemisphere, and the Southern Hemisphere.

The highest point in the continental US, Mount Whitney (4421 meters above sea level) in the Sierra Nevada, is only 136 kilometers from Badwater. Every year in July, the world’s toughest ultramarathon - the Badwater Ultramarathon - takes place on the 217-kilometer route from Death Valley to Mount Whitney, with the participation of the world’s best runners, triathletes, and climbers. Participants in the ultramarathon run non-stop for 23 or even 47 hours in temperatures that sometimes exceed 55 degrees Celsius.

Badwater Crater, the lowest spot on Mars, was named after Badwater Basin because of their similarities.

Death Valley is a national park.

Since 1933, the valley area has been a Natural Monument. In October 1994, it became Death Valley National Park. The park covers an area of 13.628 square kilometers and includes a stony desert along with the lowest place in North America - Badwater Basin filled with cracked, saline crust. There are many interesting rock formations, ravines, and hills throughout the valley. The water found there is very salty and not suitable for drinking. It is an eminently dry place, with an average annual rainfall of less than 50 millimeters, and a relative humidity of less than one percent. The area is practically devoid of water and shade.

In the past, gold, silver, and copper were mined in Death Valley.

Death Valley got its name in 1849 during the California gold rush. It was so named by prospectors of precious metals and those who tried to cross it on their way to the gold fields after thirteen pioneers died during one of the first wagon trips through Death Valley.

The California Gold Rush (1848-1855), or the discovery and search for golf (sometimes accompanied by other precious metals and rare earth minerals) began on 24th January 1848, when James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. News of the gold brought some 300.000 people to California from the rest of the US and abroad.

The Gold Rush had a tremendous impact on Native California and accelerated the decline of Native American populations due to disease, famine, and genocide in California.

Death Valley was inhabited by Native Americans of the Timbisha Indian tribe, formerly known as the Panamint Shoshone, who had lived in the valley for more than a thousand years. When a huge stream of farmers, miners, and settlers came to Death Valley in the 1860s and 18880s and annexed water sources and fertile plots of land belonging to the Shoshones, the indigenous people were pushed onto inferior land.

Today, the former Indian lands include Furnace Creek Inn and surrounding areas. Located 58 meters below sea level, the ranch is a tourist center and home to the Death Valley National Park Authority, as well as a museum. Furnace Creek encompasses an area of nearly 82 square kilometers, and springs in the mountains of the Amargosa Range have formed a natural oasis here. It was here that the highest temperature in North American history was observed, reaching 56,7 degrees Celsius on 10th July 1913. The Timbisha Tribe, which was one of the first to gain tribal status in 1982, still lives in Death Valley on an Indian reservation.

As a federally recognized group of California residents, the Timbisha make up the majority of Furnace Creek’s permanent population as an Indian community in Death Valley.

Furnace Creek was a former borax mining center.

Mining was carried out by the Pacific Coast Borax Company formed by Francis Marion Smith. Before the formation of the company, Smith first used 20-mule sleds to transport borax across the Mojave Desert. Later, these sleds were replaced by a new railroad.

The sleds were given the name 20 Mule Team Borax and were promoted by Pacific Coast Borax to increase sales. The name 20 Mule Team Borax was added to the sketch on the mule sled already on the package. The 20 mule symbol was first used in 11891, registered in 1894, and is still used today by Dial Corporation, the current owner.

There have been at least four periods of active volcanism in Death Valley in the past.

There were also three or four periods of sedimentation and plate tectonic shifts. The area has been glaciated at least twice.

Death Valley National Park has more than a thousand plant species, among which twenty-three are endemic.

The vegetation there changes depending on the altitude. Rare shrubs such as creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), individual plants of the genus Prosopis (Mimosoideae) and Orache (Atriplex) occur in the valley, Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), Nevada pines, western pines at higher elevations. Salt herbs (Kali tragus)-shrubs that move freely in the wind - also attract attention.

The key to the survival of these plants is adaptation to the conditions found in the Valley, in one of the driest and hottest places in North America.

The fauna there is relatively diverse and includes more than 400 species.

The Death Valley fauna includes 51 species of mammals (including coyotes, foxes, lynx, cougars, Odocoileus), 307 species of birds (including the ground cuckoo), 36 species of reptiles, and 3 species of amphibians.

The park is home to bighorn sheep - a subspecies of mountain sheep living in small isolated flocks in the Sierra Nevada and Death Valley. These animals are among highly adaptable and can feed on almost all types of plants.

Among the fish living in the Park is the endemic species of Devils Hole pupfish (Cyplinodon diabolis), which is a critically endangered species.

The Death Valley area abounds with many places of interest.

These are mainly located within Death Valley National Park and include:

  • Aguereberry Point - a promontory and vantage point for hikers in the Panamint Range, from which one can see the surrounding Panamint Range, Death Valley with Furnace Creek, and the salt plains of Badwater Basin and Mount Charleston in Nevada
  • Amargosa Chaos - a series of geological formations located in the Black Mountains in the southern part of the Valley
  • Artist’s Drive - an area on the slope of the Black Mountains known for its diverse rock colors. These colors were formed by the oxidation of various metals: red, pink, and yellow yield iron compounds, green - from the decomposition of mica derived from tuff, and purple - from manganese. This formation is evidence of one of the most explosive volcanic periods in Death Valley
  • Badwater Basin - a salt plain consisting of almost pure table salt
  • Wildrose Charcoal Kilns in the Panamint Range from 1877, were used to produce charcoal
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes - the 4-square kilometer dunes located in the northern part of the valley have often been used as desert backdrops in movies, including Star Wars
  • Rainbow Canyon-commonly used by the US Army for fighter jet training
  • Zabriskie Point - part of the Amargosa Range known for its erosive landscape. It consists of the sediments of Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up five million years ago, long before Death Valley was formed.

Zabriskie Point is also the title of Antonioni’s 1970 film, whose soundtrack featured music by Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones, among others.

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