Death Valley National Park – Death Valley, CA: “America’s lowest, hottest, driest national park”
David and I have been attending an RVers Educational Rally for the past week. The conference was held in Pahrump, NV. Howard and Linda Payne of RV Dreams.com led the sessions. In their early 40s they left their jobs and “sticks and bricks” house to live in an RV. They have been full timing for 13 years and are experts on all things related to full time RVing. We enjoyed getting to know many other RVers and prospective RVers at the conference. We highly recommend attending one of RV Dreams seminars if you are interested in full timing. It was an excellent and thorough introduction to this lifestyle.
The day after the conference concluded, we decided to drive over to Death Valley National Park. David had been there before on a backpacking trip but I had not. Death Valley is about an hour and fifteen minutes from Pahrump, NV. We made the drive into California on an overcast, but not very hot, day. We were very lucky because the week before temperatures reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The day we were there, it was only 85 degrees.
I was not sure what to expect because the name itself is rather off-putting. But I found that this is a very interesting national park. Death Valley has so many unique features. It is the largest national park in the lower 48 states with 3.4 million acres. Much of this area is natural wilderness. Also it boasts the highest recorded temperature in the USA of 134 degrees in the shade and receives less than two inches of rain a year. The Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level, but the surrounding mountains rise to 11,000 feet. It is the lowest point in the western hemisphere and is truly a land of contrast.
The landscape was very beautiful because there were so many colors in the mountains and in the valley the salt flats were white. There were so many hues and values that it was truly a feast for the eyes.
Death Valley was so named by European settlers who were moving west. They found the place so inhospitable that they called it Death Valley. The Timbishi Indians, however, have called Death Valley home for thousands of years. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the region was explored by miners who found gold, silver, tungsten, lead, zinc and other minerals. Perhaps the most well-known ore extracted in the valley was borax which is used in soap and cleaning products. The borax was hauled out of the valley using 20-mule teams. These mule teams became part of many advertisements on radio and television.
Tourism replaced mining when Death Valley became a National Monument in 1933. They built two resorts to encourage tourism: Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek. Each of these are located in different parts of the valley. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed many of the trails, buildings, and camps between 1933 and 1942. After completing this development, Death Valley became even more popular with tourists.
In 1994, Death Valley was designated a National Park and today there are more than 1.2 million people who visit the park annually.
In addition to the resorts, there are several campgrounds throughout the park. We drove through the one at Furnace Creek and were impressed with its facilities. We would like to spend some time exploring areas of the park next time we are here. We could definitely see ourselves coming back to Death Valley again.