Death Valley National Park was dedicated in 1933 by President Herbert Hoover and at 3.3 million acres (13,300 km2) is one of the largest in the Park Service. Straddling eastern California and western Nevada, Death Valley is home to a congeries of phantasmagoric sites: sandstone whipped into peaks by the wind, unearthly expanses of dry cracked salt pa
ns, mineral enriched hillsides that glow eerie neon colors, deep craters as if bombed out of the surface and soft undulating white dunes. Major sites including Zabriskie Point, Artist’s Palette, Dante’s Peak, Ubehebe Crater and the Racetrack draw exotic and eclectic crowds of tourists, geologists, meteorologists, photographers, painters, and movie makers – look around and you will find yourself not only on the set of innumerable Westerns but Star Wars as well.
Death Valley’s Badwater Basin is the central axis of the Park. It boasts the lowest point on the North American continent, 282 feet (86 m) below sea level. Summer temperatures regularly exceed 120 F, with the world record hitting 134 degrees F on June 10, 1913 at the aptly named town of Furnace Creek. Ruth and I visited in November 2017, when daytime temperature hovered at 70 degrees and at night time cooled down to the 40’s F. The air can vary from deathly still to violent gusts up to 80 mph.