The Explorer's Guide to Death Valley National Park, Third Edition

The Explorer's Guide to Death Valley National Park, Third Edition

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 496
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    The Explorer's Guide to Death Valley National Park, Third Edition
    Book Description:

    Originally published in 1995, soon after Death Valley National Park became the fifty-third park in the US park system,The Explorer's Guide to Death Valley National Parkwas the first complete guidebook available for this spectacular area.Now in its third edition, this is still the only book that includes all aspects of the park. Much more than just a guidebook, it covers the park's cultural history, botany and zoology, hiking and biking opportunities, and more. Information is provided for all of Death Valley's visitors, from first-time travelers just learning about the area to those who are returning for in-depth explorations.

    The book includes updated point-to-point logs for every road within and around the park, as well as more accurate maps than those in any other publication. With extensive input from National Park Service resource management, law enforcement, and interpretive personnel, as well as a thorough bibliography for suggested reading,The Explorer's Guide to Death Valley National Park, Third Editionis the most up-to-date, accurate, and comprehensive guide available for this national treasure.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-341-9
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Foreword to the First Edition
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Edwin L. Rothfuss

    In the summer of 1983 I accepted the superintendency of Death Valley National Monument. During my previous twenty-four years with the National Park Service I had worked in some pretty spectacular national parks—Glacier, Grand Canyon, Everglades, and Canyonlands to name a few. I did not know Death Valley at all, and like many who have not visited the area I naturally expected the area to be hot, dry, flat, sandy, and perhaps boring. I was challenged, however, with the assignments of removing the alien burros that were competing with the native bighorn sheep for forage and water, and of...

  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  7. INTRODUCTION: An Introduction to Death Valley National Park and Vicinity
    (pp. 1-6)

    In 1957, famous naturalist Dr. Edmund C. Jaeger wrote: “The complete natural history of Death Valley will never be written. . . . [It] is a subject too vast.” That might well be true, for Death Valley National Park encompasses an immense area that is unique in its diversity.

    The park is nearly 150 miles long from north to south, about 60 miles wide from east to west, and covers 3,399,000 acres (or 5,311 square miles). In addition, considerable portions of the adjacent mountains and valleys are culturally and biologically part of Death Valley.

    The park’s elevations range from desiccated...

  8. Part I. Geological, Human, and Natural History

    • CHAPTER ONE Geologic History
      (pp. 9-20)

      Death Valley National Park has an extraordinarily long and complex geologic history. Its most ancient rocks are more than 1.8 billion years old, whereas its youngest are forming today. They have been folded, faulted, and recrystallized in every imaginable way, inundated by volcanic lava and ash beds, and deeply sliced by erosion. The result is a wonderland that represents both the driest part of the Great Basin and the most extreme portion of the Basin and Range.

      The Great Basin is a geographic region that covers parts of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. It is defined by its...

    • CHAPTER TWO Native American Cultures
      (pp. 21-26)

      During the Wisconsin Glacial Period, the last major episode of the Ice Age, glaciers covered much of the northern hemisphere. Sea level was hundreds of feet lower than it is now, and the Bering Land Bridge connected Siberia to Alaska. Animals migrated in both directions, and humans, who lived as hunters and gatherers, followed them. As they spread south through North America they encountered a variety of environments. One of these was the Great Basin. Now a desert land, the Pleistocene setting had great rivers and deep lakes. A cooler climate with plentiful rainfall supported grasslands, marshes choked with rushes...

    • CHAPTER THREE Explorers, Prospectors, and Miners
      (pp. 27-38)

      Mexicans explored the Death Valley region long before American settlers arrived. They discovered a number of mines at least as early as the 1830s, and they attempted agriculture near some of the springs. Occasionally there were hostilities with the Southern Paiute; however, the Mexicans left few stories of hardship. To them, the desert was just a land to be worked as well as they could.

      The United States won possession of California at the end of the Mexican War in 1848. Gold was discovered in the Mother Lode of the Sierra Nevada that same year. A few settlers had arrived...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Tourism and the National Park
      (pp. 39-46)

      The idea of promoting Death Valley as a tourist attraction had been around for some time. A 1907 advertisement in Greenwater’sDeath Valley Chuck -Wallamagazine suggested: “Would You Enjoy a Trip to Hell? Probably you would not [but] . . . You Might Enjoy a Trip to Death Valley, Now!” It had, read the ad, “all the advantages of hell without the inconveniences.”

      At almost the same time, the Great Automobile Race from New York to Paris via North America, Asia, and Europe started from Times Square on February 12, 1908. The racers passed through Rhyolite and Death Valley...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Plantlife
      (pp. 47-64)

      The environmental range of plantlife in Death Valley National Park has some of the most extreme climate and altitude changes imaginable. Plants have adapted to life where the ground temperature below sea level near Badwater has been recorded exceeding 200° F, and to Telescope Peak higher than 11,000 feet where below-zero weather is common in the winter months. The types of soil are as varied as the temperature. There are blindingly white salt and alkali pans, creamy sand dunes, soggy green oases, and gray alluvial fans spreading from the mountain canyons, combined with the slopes and peaks of the surrounding...

    • CHAPTER SIX Wildlife
      (pp. 65-94)

      As with plants, animal survival in the extreme conditions of Death Valley has required a long series of evolutionary adaptations. As a result, Death Valley National Park is home to at least 440 species of animals.

      Some animals, such as the kangaroo rat, have developed systems that require no free water. Birds and reptiles resorb water from their urine, excreting an almost solid waste. Bats and two birds, the poorwill and nighthawk, aestivate or go into a state of dormancy. Other birds raise their wings to provide body shade and to allow the heat to escape. Mammals cool themselves by...

  9. Part II. The Death Valley Environment

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Desert Environment: Climate, Precautions, and Regulations for Explorers of Death Valley
      (pp. 97-104)

      An elevation range from the salt flats 282 feet below sea level to the highest peak 11,049 feet above sea level provides an extremely varied temperature range regardless of the time of the year. For the new desert visitor the most surprising variable is the daily temperature fluctuation— an 80° F day can be followed by a 40° F night because the lack of humidity and cloud cover permit the daytime heat to dissipate into the night sky. In spite of the nighttime temperature drop, Death Valley in summer is the hottest place on Earth, with a world-record high temperature...

  10. Part III. Exploring Death Valley National Park by Foot and Bicycle

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Hiking and Backpacking in Death Valley
      (pp. 107-122)

      The tiny tracks in the sand, the belly flowers, the intricate mosaics of the dried mud playas—none of this can be truly seen or understood from a vehicle. Unless you get down on your knees, how can you peer closely into the hollow of a salt pinnacle? Unless you walk, you will miss the Gnomes’ Workshop and the early morning tracks on the sand dunes. Desolation Canyon will remain an unknown, as will the rare and endangered pupfish at Salt Creek. An hour or two spent on a morning or evening walk will reward you with memories and a...

    • CHAPTER NINE Bicycling in Death Valley
      (pp. 123-128)

      Bicycling is becoming increasingly popular in Death Valley. True, most bicyclists are seen on State Highway 190 and the other paved roads, but mountain bikes have been seen at the warm springs in Saline Valley, at the head of Johnson Canyon, in Titus Canyon, and at the Eureka Dunes. Bicycling can be done on any open road in the park, from paved state highway to rugged backcountry road. Note, however, that bicycles are considered to be vehicles and therefore arenotallowed on any closed road, on hiking trails, or riding cross-country.

      Check your bike before leaving home. Make sure...

  11. Part IV. Trip Route Road Logs

    • CHAPTER TEN An Introduction to the “Trip Route” Road Logs
      (pp. 131-142)

      Part IV of this book divides Death Valley National Park into eleven geographical sections. Each of these areas is handled separately, as Chapters 11 to 21, with a map and a number of “trip route” road logs that describe each of the drives within the area. These often are accompanied by similar descriptions of “side trip” road logs. Places of interest along the way are noted with point-to-point mileages. These mileages are given to the 1/10 mile but should be taken as approximate only. For more accuracy, many of the more obscure road intersections and special features are also located...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Southern Death Valley
      (pp. 143-168)

      Except for the paved highway of the Jubilee Pass Road (Trip Route S-1), which serves as an important access road to the national park, this part of Death Valley is remote and served only by a dirt roads. There are no services inside the national park, but all services are available at Shoshone and limited services at Tecopa Hot Springs.

      FROM: Ashford Junction.

      TO: State Highway 127 at a point about 2 miles north of Shoshone, California.

      ROAD CONDITIONS: 24.9 miles one-way, paved all-weather highway.

      SIDE TRIPS: Virgin Springs Canyon Road (4WD and hike), Rhodes Spring Road (4WD), Pegma Mine...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE South-Central Death Valley
      (pp. 169-200)

      This is one of the most heavily visited parts of Death Valley National Park. Paved Badwater Road includes the famous attractions of Badwater, Artists Drive, the Devil’s Golf Course, and Natural Bridge. The West Side Road passes numerous important historic sites with access to several canyons in the Panamint Mountains.

      FROM: Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

      TO: Badwater.

      ROAD CONDITIONS: 17.6 miles one-way, all-weather paved road.

      SIDE TRIPS: Breakfast Canyon, Golden Canyon, Desolation Canyon, Artists Drive (Side Trip SC-1a), Devil’s Golf Course, and Natural Bridge (all accessible to standard vehicles).

      GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Because it leads to Bad water, perhaps the single...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Eastern Areas and Amargosa Valley
      (pp. 201-234)

      This is a diverse and fascinating part of the Death Valley region, boasting several of the park’s best known viewpoints and canyons, numerous ghost town sites, major borax mining areas, and the most endangered of all pupfish. Nicely, most of the roads are paved or improved dirt accessible to most vehicles.

      FROM: Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

      TO: Death Valley Junction.

      ROAD CONDITIONS: 29.9 miles, paved, all -weather highway.

      SIDE TRIPS: Echo Canyon Road (Side Trip E-1a, 4WD), Zabriskie Point (all vehicles and short walk), Twenty Mule Team Canyon (all vehicles), Hole-in the-Wall Road (Side Trip E-lb, 4WD), Naval Spring (all...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN North-Central Death Valley
      (pp. 235-262)

      This is a heavily visited portion of Death Valley. State Highway 190 is a major transportation corridor connecting the developed areas at Furnace Creek and Stove pipe Wells. This part of the park also includes the popular attractions of Harmony Borax Works, Salt Creek, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Chloride Cliff, Rhyolite ghost town, and Titus Canyon. Special note: the Keane Wonder mine, mill, and springs are also in this part of Death Valley, but as of September 2008 that area was closed to public entry because of the hazards of unstable structures and millsite contamination. No date for reopening...

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN Western Areas, including the “Wildrose Country”
      (pp. 263-286)

      State Highway 190 West (Trip Route W-2) is primarily a transportation corridor (it is the second-most heavily traveled entrance into Death Valley), but it includes several places important to Death Valley’s history as well as the privately operated Panamint Springs Resort. The other areas covered here offer aspects of the park that are far different from those of the valley floor, and the high-elevation Wildrose area is a popular year-round destination.

      FROM: State Highway 190 at the entrance to Stovepipe Wells Campground.

      TO: Cottonwood Creek at the end of the road.

      ROAD CONDITIONS: 19.2 miles one-way, dirt road with high-clearance...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN Panamint Valley Areas
      (pp. 287-302)

      The Panamint Valley lies mostly outside of Death Valley National Park. However, the Trona-Wildrose Road is the second busiest corridor route to the park and includes many places important to Death Valley’s history. It also provides access to several canyons in the Panamint Mountains that are within the national park.

      FROM: State Highway 190 near Panamint Springs Resort in northern Panamint Valley.

      TO: Inyo– San Bernardino county line near Trona, California.

      ROAD CONDITIONS: 42.1 miles of paved all-weather county road.

      SIDE TRIPS: Minnietta and Modoc Mines (high-clearance plus 4WD), Snow Canyon Road (4WD), Slate Range Road and Nadeau Road (all...

    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Northern Death Valley
      (pp. 303-312)

      These two routes are transportation corridors with relatively few specific points of interest along them, except for the two primary attractions of northern Death Valley: Scotty’s Castle and Ubehebe Crater.

      FROM: State Highway 190 at Sand Dunes Junction.

      TO: Scotty’s Castle.

      ROAD CONDITIONS: 36.0 miles one-way, all -weather paved road.

      SIDE TRIPS: Old Stovepipe Road (Side Trip N-1a, all vehicles), Palm Spring (hike), Triangle Spring (hike), Mid way Well (hike), mouth of Titus Canyon (all standard vehicles), and Ubehebe Crater (Side Trip N-1b, all vehicles); access to Bonnie Claire Road (Trip Route N-2), Big Pine Road (Chapter 18, Trip Route...

    • CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Big Pine Road and Eureka Valley
      (pp. 313-324)

      The Big Pine Road extends through Death Valley Wash, the northernmost part of Death Valley, and then crosses the Last Chance Range and Eureka Valley, the location of the second-tallest set of sand dunes in North America. Of the park’s seven entrance roads, this is the least used. No services are available between Scotty’s Castle and the town of Big Pine, California.

      FROM: Ubehebe Crater Road.

      To: U.S. Highway 395 at Big Pine, California.

      ROAD CONDITIONS: 72.4 miles one-way, combinations of dirt roads with rough washboard surfaces and good asphalt pavement, normally suitable for any vehicle driven with care.


    • CHAPTER NINETEEN Racetrack Valley and Hunter Mountain
      (pp. 325-344)

      These two roads combine as a single long trip into one of the most amazing parts of Death Valley National Park. The area boasts numerous important mines, rocks that slide across a lakebed, pine-clad mountains, abundant wildlife, and solitude. In the winter, the road over Hunter Mountain is often closed because of snow and ice, and 4WD vehicles are always recommended. There are no services of any kind along these roads.

      FROM: Ubehebe Crater.

      TO: State Highway 190 at a point 13.5 miles east of Panamint Springs Resort.

      ROAD CONDITIONS: 59.4 miles one-way; dirt road, occasionally maintained and often suitable...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY Saline Valley Road, including Lee Flat
      (pp. 345-364)

      Saline Valley is a remote area. From one end to the other, the Saline Valley Road is 78 miles long, and each end is several miles from the nearest services; there are no services whatsoever in Saline Valley. This is, however, a popular area, especially because of the camping and soaking at the informal spas at Lower Warm Spring and Palm Spring. There are also numerous important historic sites throughout the area, and Lee Flat, near the south end of this road, hosts the national park’s most extensive stand of Joshua trees.

      FROM: State Highway 190 between Panamint Valley and...

    • CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Nevada Triangle
      (pp. 365-376)

      The Nevada Triangle was added to Death Valley National Monument by a proc lamation by President Roosevelt in 1937. It encompasses most of the higher elevations of the Grapevine Mountains and much of the Bullfrog Mining District. Although many people visit the Rhyolite ghost town, few venture onto the back roads, and this is one of the leastvisited parts of the national park.

      FROM: U.S. Highway 95, at a point 11.8 miles north of Beatty, Nevada, or 23.7 miles south of Scotty’s Junction, Nevada.

      To: Strozzi Ranch, at the end of the south branch, or Phinney Canyon, at the end...

  12. Appendixes

    • APPENDIX A Ghost Towns and Mining Camps
      (pp. 377-400)
    • APPENDIX B Railroads of Death Valley
      (pp. 401-414)
    • APPENDIX C Visitor Services and Activities
      (pp. 415-432)
  13. Suggested Reading
    (pp. 433-436)
  14. About the Authors
    (pp. 437-438)
  15. Index
    (pp. 439-454)
  16. Death Valley Wilderness and Backcountry Stewardship Plan of 2013
    (pp. 455-456)