Whenever I say that my family is taking a VACATION to Death Valley, people respond in shock and are amazed that we would go to such a place. What kind of place is named after “DEATH”? Then I tell them that it is a beautiful place, with rich historical treasures and remarkable traits in its land. I expound on this and mention that the US government has actually declared it a National Park. This note seems to soften the blow a little bit, but even with this, people are skeptical about Death Valley National Park.
Obviously, if you were to visit in the summer, you may be asking for trouble. After all, Death Valley holds the world record for highest temperature of 134 Degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913. For those who are not curious what 134 degree feels like, a winter trip to the park is advised.
Most enter the park in one of three ways: Taking highway 127 from Baker, CA and the I15, or Highway 160 from Las Vegas, or finally Highway 190 from US 395 in California.
So, here are the Gems:
#1 Death Valley has WATER!!
Snow run-off from the higher elevations of the park can be found in places such as Salt Creek. This creek has a salinity much higher than the ocean. If you time your visits carefully (usually in March), you can even see pup fish. This area recently made the news when vandals walked through and even sat in the delicate ecosystem.
#2 Death Valley has rich historical stories
Death Valley’s mining origins stem from the 20 Mule Teams pulling carts of borax from the mountains surrounding the park. These mining operations later led to the promotion of tourism. Evidence of these mining operations are throughout the park with exhibits in Furnace Creek.
#3 You can golf at the lowest elevation golf course in North America
Yes, there is even a golf course in the middle of Death Valley. This is the lowest elevation golf course in North America.
#4 Enjoy the BIG and small
Due to its low elevation (lowest in North America, and 8th lowest place in the world), the dried lake bed that makes up Death Valley still has a sea of crystallized salt. When rain falls and the water evaporates (yes, Death Valley also has one of the highest evaporation rates on earth), the salt crystals regenerate.
#5 You can find your favorite Star Wars sets
Star Wars fans have a reason to go to the desert! Several scenes were shot in Death Valley, including this one of the sand dunes of Tatooine. R2D2 and C3PO could be seen wandering the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes back in the 1970’s.
I hope you plan to explore Death Valley National Park in the future. As with any trip I take, I like to read and plan ahead. Here are a few resources I recommend:
The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map of Death Valley National Park
Hiking Death Valley National Park: A must have for planning your hikes. Affordable and comprehensive guide.
This is one of the best books on the historical aspects of Death Valley National Park.