Skip to main content

2018 Mojave Road Trip Part 3; Death Valley National Park

After reaching Death Valley Junction on California State Route 127 I took a turn west on CA 190 towards Death Valley National Park.






Death Valley is a large sink in the northern extent of the Mojave Desert and is part of the Great Basin Drainage area.  Death Valley is situated between the Panamint, Amargosa, Sylvania, and Owlshead Mountains over an area of approximately 3,000 square miles.  Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the North America at -282 feet below sea level which is in stark contrast the 11,043 foot Telescope peak to the west in the Panamint Range.  Death Valley has the highest recorded temperature in the world at 134F which was recorded in Furnace Creek in 1913.

Death Valley essentially is a giant dry lake which has been called "Lake Manly" by geologists.   Lake Manly once had waters as high as 290 feet above sea level which was primarily fed by the Amargosa River.  Lake Manly disappeared approximately 10,000 years ago along with many large lakes that once made up much of the Mojave and Great Basin Deserts.

Death Valley was known to the Shoshone Tribes of the Mojave Desert but was discovered by modern Californian settlers during the 1849 Gold Rush.  Apparently the settlers were attempting to avoid Donner Pass after ill fated trip of the Donner Party Expedition which became trapped in Donner Pass in the winter of 1846 to 1847.  My understanding is that the expedition that located Death Valley was attempting to finding a shortcut to Walker Pass.  Although the expedition was ultimately successful in creating a new way to Walker Pass it was extremely hazardous to cross given the steep terrain and hot desert weather. 

As I mentioned in Part 2 the Borax Mining history of Death Valley which began in the 1880s and lasted until the 1930s.  In 1933 Death Valley was declared a National Monument which was elevated to National Park status in 1994.  Legislative Route 127 which later became CA 190 and CA 127 was adopted through Death Valley in 1933 as well which is likely why CA 190 is a rare example of a state maintained highway in a National Park.

Given that I was with some first time visitors to Death Valley National Park the first stop was at Zabriskie Point.  Zabriskie Point overlooks Death Valley from the Amargosa Range is filled with multi-colored sediments in the badlands below.  My understanding is that the sediments are from a larger lake called "Furnace Creek Lake" which existed millions of year before Death Valley existed.





I stopped at Furnace Creek to renew my National Parks Pass.  Furnace Creek is -190 feet below sea level and is the location for Park Service housing.  It was an extremely nice morning at 64F, I don't believe it jumped over 70F until mid-day.  Either way it was a welcome change of weather compared to the dense Tule Fog of San Joaquin Valley.


Furnace Creek is the location of the only services for over 50 miles in all directions.  The $4 plus gasoline may seem pricey but considering how remote the station it is I'm sure plenty of people are willing to pay the listed price.  The gas station also does minor automotive repairs which I'm sure is actually a frequent occurrence on CA 190 and the surrounding off-road trails.




There isn't any services for 57 miles on eastbound CA 190.  The closest gas that I'm aware of is located in Pahrump in Nevada.





CA 190 and most of Death Valley National Park have elevation markers indicating how far the terrain is below sea level.





The next major attraction was Badwater Basin which as previously mentioned is -282 feet below sea level.  Badwater Basin can be reached via Badwater Road south from Furnace Creek.  High above Badwater Road in the Amargosa Range is a sign 282 feet above indicating where sea level is located.



Badwater Basin is the location of a small spring which has a high salinity, hence the name "Badwater."  There is a small boardwalk over the actual spring and a compressed salt path out onto the flats facing west towards the Panamint Range.  Snow can be seen high above Badwater Basin on Telescope Peak in the Panamints.









My next destination was on Artist's Drive north of Badwater Basin.  Artist's Drive is a one-way road which ascends into the Amargosa Range and has several small trails overlooking the multi-colored rocks.  Artist's Drive is actually a fun road to drive with lots of nice scenic views of the colored rocks and Death Valley below.  The road is extremely narrow in places and has several dips exceeding 20% grades. 
























The last hike of the day as in Golden Canyon about two miles south of CA 190.  The trails of Golden Canyon lead up to Zabriske Point and a couple overlooks.  Golden Canyon is a maze of desert washes that seemingly ascend to random places.  I did find evidence of an asphalt road that was once about a quarter mile into Golden Canyon but appears to have been washed out.  At Red Cathedral we turned around and head out of Death Valley back to CA 127 to enter Nevada.


















Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Niagara Falls

  Arguably the world's most famous waterfall, or rather a set of waterfalls, Niagara Falls may not need much of an introduction, as it is a very popular tourist attraction in both New York State and the Province of Ontario, a destination of plenty of honeymooning couples, vacationing families and college students out for a good time for a weekend. Niagara Falls is also the site of many daredevil activities over the years, such as tightrope walking and going over the falls in a barrel. It is always nice to have a bit of a refresher, of course. Niagara Falls is made up of two main waterfalls, American Falls (also known as Rainbow Falls), which is on the American side of the border and Horseshoe Falls (also known as Canadian Falls), where the border between the United States and Canada crosses. There is also a smaller waterfall on the New York side of the border, which is Bridal Veil Falls. The height of the waterfalls are impressive, with Horseshoe Falls measuring at

The Smithtown Bull in Smithtown, New York

  Before I moved to Upstate New York as a young man, I grew up in the Long Island town of Smithtown during the 1980s and 1990s. The recognizable symbol of Smithtown is a bronze statue of a bull named Whisper, located at the junction of NY Route 25 and NY Route 25A near the bridge over the Nissequogue River. Why a bull, you may ask. The bull is a symbol of a legend related to the town's founding in 1665 by Richard "Bull" Smythe, with a modernized name of Richard Smith. It also so happens that there is a story behind the legend, one that involves ancient land right transfers and some modern day roads as well. So the story goes that Smythe made an agreement with a local Indian tribe where Smythe could keep whatever land he circled around in a day's time riding atop his trusty bull. Choosing the longest day of the year for his ride, he set out with his bull Whisper and went about riding around the borders of the Town of Smithtown. As legend has it, Smythe t

Route 75 Tunnel - Ironton, Ohio

In the Ohio River community of Ironton, Ohio, there is a former road tunnel that has a haunted legend to it. This tunnel was formerly numbered OH 75 (hence the name Route 75 Tunnel), which was renumbered as OH 93 due to I-75 being built in the state. Built in 1866, it is 165 feet long and once served as the northern entrance into Ironton, originally for horses and buggies and later for cars. As the tunnel predated the motor vehicle era, it was too narrow for cars to be traveling in both directions. But once US 52 was built in the area, OH 93 was realigned to go around the tunnel instead of through the tunnel, so the tunnel was closed to traffic in 1960. The legend of the haunted tunnel states that since there were so many accidents that took place inside the tunnel's narrow walls, the tunnel was cursed. The haunted legend states that there was an accident between a tanker truck and a school bus coming home after a high school football game on a cold, foggy Halloween night in 1