A name like Death Valley can trigger your imagination, believing it to be a place with a highly dangerous environment that may have witnessed several deaths over the years and remains a place to be feared. So, does the place live up to its name? Will fact be stranger than fiction? The following facts should help you decide.
Intriguing Facts about Death Valley
Death valley is a desert valley located within the Mojave desert in Inyo County, California. It contains some of the hottest, driest and lowest places in the North America. It has an area of about 3000 sq miles. It is surrounded by Amargosa range to the east, Panamint range to the west, the Sylvania mountains to the north, and Owlshead mountains to the south.
Death Valley is home to the Native American Timbisha tribe, who first settled here over a thousand years ago, with some still residing in the valley to this day. The valley's name is associated with the word tümpisa, which means "red rock face paint". The tribe is federally known as the Death Valley Timbisha Shoshone Band of California, aka the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe.
Origin of the name "Death Valley"
The area was given its English name of Death Valley during the California Gold Rush in 1849, by those trying to cross the valley to reach the gold fields. The conditions of the valley probably made it difficult for people to survive the journey, however official records report only one death. One story suggests that a few people attempting to cross the valley lost a member to its extreme conditions; after the others were rescued, one person was quoted as saying, "Goodbye Death Valley".
It contains the Badwater Basin, which lies 282 feet below sea level and is the lowest elevation point in the United States. During the Pleistocene era (which ended around 12,000 years ago), the valley was filled with a lake called Glacial Lake Manly, that stretched for almost a hundred miles and was around 600 feet deep.
The depth and shape of the valley influence its temperature. It is a long narrow basin with mountains present on all sides, resulting in hot, dry air getting trapped in the valley, making it arid. The temperature varies between a high of 120 °F to a low of 90 °F in summers. The winters are usually pleasant with an average high of around 67 °F in January.
The highest temperature recorded was 134 °F on 10th July, 1913 at Furnace Creek. The coldest temperature recorded was 15 °F on January, 1914 at Greenland Ranch. More recently in 2001, daytime high temperatures above 100 °F were recorded for a period of 153 consecutive days.
The valley receives very little rainfall. In 1929, the valley experienced no rainfall at all. January 2005 was the wettest month recorded with 2.59 inches of rain.
Flora and Fauna
Due to the climate, most plants and animals are found near small water bodies in the valley. At higher altitudes, animals like deer, mountain lions, and bobcats are found in the valley. A number of creatures like lizards, snakes, rodents, and even rabbits, can also be found in the plains of the Death Valley.
An interesting occupant of this valley is the Death Valley pupfish which survives in small water bodies around the location. They are descendants of fish that were part of a large ecosystem that existed when the valley was Lake Manly.
On 11th February, 1933, President Hoover established Death Valley and its surrounding area as the Death Valley National Monument. In 1994, President Clinton signed an act that changed the status of Death Valley to a national park. It is currently open to people for all sorts of outdoor and recreational activities.
These facts shed some light on the true nature of this ominously named desert. Death Valley consists of some interesting geographic features and has witnessed some of the most extreme temperatures in North America. It has turned out to be one of those times where fact was not stranger than fiction. However it was definitely fascinating!