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Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park
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Located in California, the Death Valley National Park Destination is comprised of "harsh desert" climates and only a few relatively small communities. The most notable feature of the area is Death Valley itself, which serves as the namesake of the destination as well as a unique geographic landscape. On July 10, 1913, the valley experienced the world record for "highest air temperature" at Furnace Creek (134 degrees Fahrenheit). The territory is considered to be the "hottest place on earth" and "the driest place in North America."[6] Death Valley's name is thought to have originated from a group of people attempting to participate in the California Gold Rush. Roughly 100 wagons deviated from the trail because they believed that it was a shortcut. This led them into Death Valley, where they wandered for weeks before finally abandoning their wagons and hiking out of the basin. A woman turned around as they were leaving and declared, "Goodbye, Death Valley."[5] The name stuck, though it is considered to be an exaggeration of the valley's true biodiversity. Hundreds of species have adapted to the desert climate, with the majority of the indigenous flora growing near the limited sources of water spread across the valley.[7]

What Death Valley National Park is known for

Situated in southern California, the Death Valley National Park Destination encompasses desert territory that borders the state of Nevada. As its name would infer, the most notable feature of the destination is Death Valley National Park, which holds a number of national records. For example, in the contiguous United States, Death Valley happens to be the largest national park. It is also the hottest, lowest (in terms of elevation), and driest national park in the U.S. Some of the area's geographic features have attributes that set it apart from countries other than the United States. Death Valley contains the Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America and the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. Its deepest regions extend 282 feet below sea level.[2]

Death Valley National Park was set apart as a national monument in February of 1933. Many of its existing trails, buildings, and camps were initially created by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) between 1933 and 1942. Their efforts helped to bring water and phone service into regions of the valley, and much of that infrastructure is still utilized in Death Valley to this day.[3]

Only a few small cities are located within the Death Valley National Park Destination, many of which serve as waystations between California and Nevada. Olancha, California, is one such city in the territory, with a population of approximately 200 people.[4] One of the zone's largest towns is Ridgecrest, California, home to roughly 28,000 citizens. It was once called Crumville in honor of some local dairymen and owes much of its growth in recent decades to "the continuing needs of the high-tech industries coupled to the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) programs for testing arms and guidance systems."[9]

Many people who visit the Death Valley National Park Destination take part in outdoor activities. Due to the extreme heat experienced within Death Valley specifically, National Park Reservations recommends that people avoid summer hiking in the valley. This is because temperatures can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and it should be noted that the second leading cause of death within the park is dehydration. That being said, attractions such as biking, sightseeing, a historical museum, and visiting sand dunes bring in numerous visitors each year.[5]


Death Valley, which in turn is the namesake of the Death Valley National Park Destination, is one of the most unique geographical regions in North America. It holds multiple records as a result of its geography, most notably for being the hottest, driest, and lowest (elevation) national park in the United States. These "extreme" features have attracted "adventurous visitors" over the years, though many sections of the national park are described as having a "raw natural beauty." In many ways, the name "Death Valley" is somewhat misleading, given the fact that numerous local species can be found in the valley.[3]

There are 21 species of plants/animals that are only found in Death Valley—essentially classifying the zone as an "ecological and wilderness sanctuary" studied by scientists across the world. One example of these indigenous species is the Death Valley Pup Fish.[5] In addition to the types of lifeforms exclusively found within Death Valley, there are a number of species that have adapted to the harsh desert climate. An estimated 1,042 varieties of plants can be found along with 51 types of mammals, 36 forms of reptiles, and 346 classifications of birds, among others. Deer, mountain lions, coyotes, and foxes roam the landscape, though "the park's largest creature is the big-horn sheep." Arguably the most dangerous animal located within Death Valley is the rattlesnake. Caution should be taken around the snakes, though "a few precautions and a bit of common sense" can be employed to navigate the valley more safely. This includes wearing close-toed shoes or boots—as well as long pants—and sticking to the trails. Finally, despite the dry desert conditions present in Death Valley, flora such as desert holly, creosote bush, pickleweed, arrowweed, and honey mesquite can be found in relative abundance.[7]

Death Valley has one of the most unique (and extreme) climates in the entire world. It is both the driest place in North America and the "hottest place on earth." On July 10, 1913, the world record for the highest air temperature was recorded in Death Valley (134 degrees Fahrenheit). Though typical temperatures in the area are not quite that hot, it is common for summers to experience a range between 90 degrees and 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, it is recommended to visit Death Valley National Park in the winter or spring when the overall weather is described as "very pleasant" with "cool nights."[6]

Rainfall within the Death Valley National Park Destination is relatively low in comparison with other regions in the United States and even compared to other deserts. However, it is still possible to experience rain in the valley, and thunderstorms bring the risk of flash floods—most commonly occurring in late summer. One reason why Death Valley experiences so little rain and extreme heat is that it is surrounded by mountain ranges. Clouds approaching the valley from any direction deposit their moisture on the other end of the mountains, leaving only a dry "rainshadow" in their wake.[6]


Though there are a number of small cities and towns in the area, the Death Valley National Park Destination's most prominent feature is its namesake: Death Valley. Multiple groups of Native Americans lived in the region over the last 10,000 years, and up until 2,000 years ago, the valley's climate is estimated to have been milder than it is today. European settlers were first attracted to the area as a result of the California Gold Rush. Approximately 100 wagons "stumbled into Death Valley" because the group thought they were taking a shortcut. They were unable to locate a path out of the valley for weeks, forcing them to eat some of their own oxen to survive. Finally, after abandoning their wagons, they were able to hike out of the valley. The experience prompted one of the party's women to turn around to face the basin and declare, "Goodbye, Death Valley." This is colloquially known as the origin of the area's name.[2]

Over the next century, the Death Valley region would become more popular from a "mining boom." Many temporary cities were established to harvest a variety of natural rocks and minerals. When the resources grew scarce, the towns were abandoned. In modern times, people are able to visit these forsaken communities as "ghost town" attractions, with the most popular being Panamint City and Chloride City. An admittedly odder structure can be found in the middle of the desert: Scotty's Castle. More accurately classified as a mansion, Scotty's Castle is a massive Spanish-style building that was constructed in the 1920s for reasons that are not entirely understood.[5]

In the late 1900s and early 2000s, the Death Valley National Park Destination experienced earthquakes. Two of the most notable quakes occurred in 1995 and 2019, though they each had multiple waves of activity and varying magnitudes. For example, on August 17 of 1995, a magnitude 5.4 quake shook the area near Ridgecrest, California. Despite its relatively low magnitude, over 2,500 aftershocks came as a result of the initial earthquake over the following five weeks. This culminated in a second, larger quake on September 20 with a magnitude of 5.8. Ridgecrest was more directly affected by the earthquakes of 2019, which consisted of a magnitude 4.0 quake, followed by one of 6.4 and finally of 7.1.[9]