From the magical burst of wildflower blooms in spring to the allure of ghost towns, historic mining operations, wildlife and raw natural beauty, Death Valley National Park offers something for everyone. About 140 miles long, Death Valley is home to a wide variety of wildlife, from bighorn sheep and mountain lions down to abundant butterfly species like the Square-spotted Blue, Indra Swallowtail and Western Pygmy Blue.
Named a national monument in February of 1933, Death Valley National Park owes much of its early development to the Civilian Conservation Corps, or the CCC. From 1933 until 1942, twelve CCC companies improved the area by creating trails, buildings and camps. They also introduced phone and water service to some areas of the valley. Much of what they built is still in existence and utilized in Death Valley Park today.
Death Valley ParkTours And Camping
The valley is a long, low depression set in largely barren and unpopulated country of desert plains and rocky ridges, east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It is over 130 miles long, but only around 12 miles wide, running roughly north-south near the border with Nevada. From an elevation of 1000 meters at the north end, the land slopes down steadily and for 70 miles the floor is below sea level, reaching a low point of -282 feet (-86 meters) at Badwater, the lowest point in the Western hemisphere. The depth of the depression is partly responsible for the extreme high temperatures, which can exceed 130°F in summer. High, unvegetated mountains of sombre reddish colour flank the narrow valley on both sides; a few are high enough to have snow for many months of the year.
The protected area, proclaimed a National Monument in 1933, was extended in 1994 (by the Desert Protection Act) to include an additional 1200,000 acres, mainly in the little-visited northwest section, and was upgraded in status to a National Park; this now covers 3 million acres, making it the largest in the US outside Alaska. Nearly 550 square miles are below sea level. There are many interesting sites and viewpoints beside the paved roads, and a good selection of short to moderate trails, but the majority of the area is reachable only by 4WD tracks or long cross-country hikes, this latter possible only during winter and spring owing to the high temperatures and lack of water at other times.