"Into the Valley of Death..." Top 5 Page for this destination Death Valley National Park by SteveOSF

Death Valley National Park Travel Guide: 905 reviews and 1,963 photos

A Short Visit

We visited Death Valley National Park in late April of 2007. Fortunately we were not too late in the season and were lucky to have temperatures lower than what is possible for that time of year. Spending two nights in the park at Furnace Creek Ranch, we found plenty of sights and activities to fill the days.

Death Valley is not the barren wasteland that that many envision. It is arid, but yet many forms of vegetation grow throughout much of the park. Wild animals like rabbit and coyote can be seen. The stark landscape is varied and picturesque. The park's vivid, unique scenery offer many spectacular views. Opportunities to explore abound.

Some History

Death Valley received Federal protection when it was proclaimed a National Monument in 1933. In 1994 it was dedicated as a national park and became part of the National Park Service.

The Timbisha ("red rock facepaint"), formerly known as the Panamint Shoshone, are Native Americans who have inhabited Death Valley for over a thousand years.

During the Gold Rush in October of 1849, a group of wagons arrived in Salt Lake City with hopes on traveling to California. It was too late in the year to try to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Not wanting to wait until the passage of winter, they took their chances with the Old Spanish Trail to the south. After two weeks they were moving slower than most had expected, when they encountered a man with a map made by John Fremont. The map showed a 500 mile shortcut across the desert to a mountain pass.

Most of the wagons elected to use the shortcut; however an early obstacle sent most of them back to the original group still traversing the Old Spanish Trail. About 20 wagons continued with the shortcut. Unfortunately, the man with the map grew impatient with the progress of the wagons and abandoned them during the night. The pioneers decided to continue on even without a map, figuring all they had to due was to head west and find the pass.

Thus it was that during Christmas week of 1849 that the first non Native Americans discovered Death Valley. For the next two months they had to cross Death Valley on while on the brink of starvation, with little available water, and with insufficient forage for their animals. Apparently they were saved from dying of thirst by a snowstorm. Despite the hardships they encountered, only one person of the group perished in Death Valley. Legend has it that the name Death Valley was coined by one of these weary travelers as they said goodbye to the arid wilderness.

Prospecting and mining for gold, silver, and minerals soon followed. However, borax mining became Death Valleys claim to mining fame. "Twenty mule teams" (which actually consisted of two horses and eighteen mules) hauled borax 165 miles away to the railroad.

Today Death Valley is set aside as a park, and hopefully this unique landscape will be preserved.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Scenic
  • Cons:A little on the warm side.
  • In a nutshell:With its diverse landscapes, there is more to see than one might imagine.
  • Last visit to Death Valley National Park: Apr 2007
  • Intro Updated Jul 17, 2007
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Reviews (35)

Comments (7)

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo
    Apr 8, 2009 at 2:15 PM

    Steve - I know I visited this page before, but it is still one of your best pages!

  • atufft's Profile Photo
    May 4, 2008 at 7:23 PM

    Outstanding work Steve. This needs to be a circle 5 page!

  • nicolaitan's Profile Photo
    Apr 14, 2008 at 8:11 AM

    wonderful description of Death Valley - the Artist's Palette is striking as is the rest of the park. Your page deserves a top 5 for its great pictures and comprehensive discussions. N.

  • alza's Profile Photo
    Mar 26, 2008 at 12:55 PM

    a very good page Steve! tks!

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Feb 21, 2008 at 9:43 PM

    Marvellous description of the valley, Steve :-) It brings back nice memories. Ubehebe Crater looks very stunning, oh my, we've missed that one. Maybe next time.

  • Redang's Profile Photo
    Feb 8, 2008 at 6:46 PM

    This is one if my favourite places on earth!

  • giampiero6's Profile Photo
    Oct 2, 2007 at 11:27 PM

    hey Stevo...really great page! thanks

SteveOSF

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