While looking for things to do during my last trip to Las Vegas I came across a tour that had an excursion to Death Valley National Park in California. When I first saw the name “Death Valley” I assumed that it was a dry, arid empty desert and although it would have undoubtedly been an experience it didn’t sound like it would be a particularly memorable excursion. Then I started to do some research and came across some pictures online, it was then that I realized there is actually a lot more to death valley than that. I am not saying that it is not deserty (if it wasn’t before, deserty is now a word) in parts, as it is after all in the Mojave Desert and officially the lowest, driest point in North America and has a record high of 134 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also quite mountainous in places. I went in May which is normally around 105 degrees but since this day had an unusually cold, strong wind, it was only 80 degrees.
The drive itself from Las Vegas to Death Valley was scenic itself with quite stunning mountains and landscape. We even stopped along the road to cheek out the Joshua Tree fields!
There are more than a few points that are traditionally popular with sightseer’s.
My favorite was Zabriskie Point, because of the unique almost moonlike landscape (perhaps this is where NASA faked the moon landing? just kidding……). Millions of years before the sinking and widening of Death Valley, a lake covered this whole area. During several million years of the lake’s existence, sediments were collecting at the bottom which formed this amazing Furnace Creek Formation.
The dark-colored formations capping the badland ridges is lava from volcanic eruptions that occurred three to five million years ago!
If you want to see Death Valley from 5,000 feet up, go to Dante’s View which is the highest point in Death Valley. From there you can get a great view of “The Devil’s Golf Course”. Since during my visit it was an out of the ordinary windy day it caused the sand to cause a fog-like coating, so my view wasn’t as clear as I would have liked, but it was still amazing!
This area is called Devil’s Golf Course. It was named after a line in the 1934 National Park Service guide book to Death Valley National Monument, which stated “Only the devil could play golf” on its surface because of it’s rough texture from the large halite salt crystal formations.
These halite salt crystal formations on the rocks were extremely sharp! If you happened to fall on the crystal formations you would would most likely cause yourself to get a nasty cut.
The fog made the Devil’s Golf Course look pretty creepy! It looks like there is nothing ahead, but there are actually a multitude of mountains surrounding the area.
We stopped for lunch at the Furnace Creek Visitor center where we were provided with a lunch pack which had a sandwich, cookie, bag of chips and water. If you are not on a tour and don’t have your own food, there is a restaurant and bar that you can go to. The visitor center is in itself a little oasis in the desert, so it had some beautiful scenery to check out after I ate my lunch.
The visitor center also holds the Borax Museum which tells the story of the Pacific Borax Company, who mined borax, which is a mineral that is used amongst other things in detergent and cosmetics even to this day. There is also an outside area that holds some of the stuff used in the 1800s including the wagons that the Twenty Mule Teams used to haul the borax.
Badwater Basin is the lowest point in Death Valley and North America, it is 282 feet below sea level!
It’s hard to see, but in the photo below has a sign in the mountain that says “Sea Level” which marks where the sea level begins.
Artist’s Palette is the last place we stopped on the tour which are filled with mountains covered with colorful mixtures of green, red and pink making a stunning scene. I think the name is pretty fitting! These colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals in the mineral rich mountains.