Day Trip to Death Valley, January 2010

Death Valley, the hottest, driest desert in the USA, evokes images of sand, rocks, and unbearable heat, but water, plants, animals, and various geological features attract many visitors.

Mono Lake - aerial view Salt Creek (foreground) flows down Death Valley from the North.
Mono Lake - aerial view
Salt Creek has water year-around, sustaining the pupfish that live there. When the water evaporates, the white salt is left behind, as seen at Badwater (near the top of this image).
Mono Lake - aerial view Badwater, elevation -86m, (the white patch at the top of the image) is white from salt deposits.
Seen here from near ...
Mono Lake - aerial view ... snow-covered Telescope Peak, elevation 3368m.

Death Valley has several geological features: Slot canynos, alluvial fans, sand dunes, and a dry lakebed "racetrack" for rocks.

Mono Lake - aerial view The water has carved a narrow path through these hard rocks in the Cottonwood Mountains, allowing it to escape into Death Valley just north of Stovepipe Wells. (left is downhill)
Mono Lake - aerial view A large alluvial fan starts at the mouth of Titanothere Canyon.
Mono Lake - aerial view Mosaic Canyon is a popular hiking destination. A road leads up the alluvial fan to a parking lot near the mouth of the canyon.
Mono Lake - aerial view
Slot canyons generally are popular hiking destinations. The footpath in this canyon near Titus canyon reveals the many vititors.
Mono Lake - aerial view
Titus canyon is just wide enough to permit one-way automobile traffic (high clearance required).
Mono Lake - aerial view The colorful geologic history of softer stones has been exposed by erosion.
Mono Lake - aerial view Seismic uplift along with erosion has exposed the layered history of harder rocks.
Mono Lake - aerial view The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are a popular destination for visitors ...
Mono Lake - aerial view ... as seen by the many tracks on the back of the tallest of the dunes.
Mono Lake - aerial view Ubehebe Crator is a volcanic crator in the north of Death Valley.
Mono Lake - aerial view A trail allows visitors to hike from the parking lot (left) to the bottom of the crator, 150m below.
Mono Lake - aerial view A long dirt road allows high clearance vehicles to drive from Ubehebe Crator to the Racetrack.
Mono Lake - aerial view The Racetrack is a dry lakebed. At the far left end(in this photo), near a cliff, rocks that have slid along the lakebed and their tracks can be seen, but not by plane. Apparently, when the lakebed is wet, the friction that holds the rocks in place is so low that even the wind can move them. Because the lakebed is soft, the rocks leave tracks. Wikipedia explains further.
Mono Lake - aerial view "The Grandstand" sticks up through the racetrack at the near end.

Humans have settled several places in Death Valley.

Mono Lake - aerial view Construction on Scotty's Castle began in 1922. It now uses solar panels to generate electricity, but if you don't have a bird's eye view, you wouldn't know it from the ground.
Mono Lake - aerial view Aside from the main "castle" (lower left), there are several out-buildings.
Mono Lake - aerial view Stovepipe Wells Village is a speck in the desert. Surprisingly, it has a small runway that can be seen on the right edge of this photo, three-quarters of the way down.
Mono Lake - aerial view Furnace Creek uses much water from an Indian reservation to provide tourists luxuries such as a swimming pool and a golf course.

Take-off from the Furnace Creek Airport.


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[Last update: Apr 4, 2010]