Death Valley National Park is the hottest, driest and lowest national park in the United States which is why we went in February. It occupies an interface zone between the arid Great Basin and Mojave deserts and contains a diverse desert environment of salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains.
We took a boardwalk walk to see the salt creek pupfish. This is the only place this species exists and they are out of hibernation at this time of year. As you can see from the pictures, the park is quite diverse with beautiful views everywhere you look. The 9th – 12th pictures are of the sunrise at Zabriskie point. The sun did not come up until 6:30, so it was doable for Leslie. We were there for an hour watching the color of the mountains and rock change as the sun came up behind us. Very nice.
The next pictures (except for the last one) are from Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Well to be truthful, the lowest point (4 feet lower) is about 25 miles away and dangerous to get to, so they put the sign here. The site itself consists of a small spring-fed pool of “bad water” next to the road in a sink; the accumulated salts of the surrounding basin make it undrinkable, thus giving it the name. Adjacent to the pool, where water is not always present at the surface, repeated freeze–thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push the thin salt crust into hexagonal honeycomb shapes.
In 1881, the Eagle Borax Works became Death Valley’s first commercial borax operation. William Tell Coleman built the Harmony Borax Works plant and began to process ore in late 1883, continuing until 1888. This mining and smelting company produced borax to make soap and for industrial uses. The end product was shipped out of the valley 165 miles to the Mojave railhead in 10-ton-capacity wagons pulled by “twenty-mule teams” that were actually teams of 18 mules and two horses each. The last picture shows the wagons that they pulled — two containers of Borax and the last one a 120,000 gallon water tank. The teams averaged two miles an hour and required about 30 days to complete a round trip.