Leaving Lone Pine we drove south to Owens "Lake", a broad basin drained dry by the water barons of
southern California. At that point we turned left across Death Valley. Going south through the valley, despite
temperatures well above 110 degrees, we stopped and exited our air-conditioned vehicles at several locations
in order to experience points of scientific and/or historical interest. This might also have had something to do
with the fact that the leading vehicle in our caravan was driven by people who live in Chandler, Arizona--
individuals, therefore, for whom such temperatures are not extraordinary. You can judge from these pictures
whether the effort was worth it.
The road across Panamint Valley, parallel to, similar to, and just west of Death Valley,
looking back from the eastern slope. The small strip of greenery along the road in the
distance, at the base of the hills, is the Panamint Springs Resort.
Surface sediments around Salt Creek, showing clear signs that water has recently flowed
across this barren wasteland.
Salt Creek again, one of three isolated locations where the Death Valley Pupfish managed to
evolve enough to survive in small saline water deposits--the only fish species to remain after
Lake Manly dried up at the end of the last ice age. In the Death Valley area there is also the
Cottonball Marsh pupfish and a Devil's Hole species. In this photo Anne and Brad are on the
boardwalk, busy searching for signs of the active aquatic life promised by the tourist brochures.
Anne and Beth on the path to the Harmony Borax processing plant at Furnace Creek, where local soil
was mixed with water and boiled to remove the valuable white powder (admittedly not gold or silver,
but it sold well). At the time it was in operation, the townsite was (optimism? satire?) named Greenland.
The back end of one of the three-wagon trains once pulled by 20-mule teams across Death Valley,
carrying water and borax from the Harmony works. On the left, in the distant background, you can
see what remains of one of the buildings of the town.
The ore processing trough, with the boiler's firebox at the far end. From 1883 to 1888
this unit produced about three tons of borax a day. Thanks to effective marketing, TV,
and wild west nostalgia, those five years produced an American western legend.
At the lowest point in Death Valley, some 282 feet below sea level, the National Park Service
has helpfully placed a sign on the cliff above the parking lot to indicate where the top of the ocean
would be if it ever managed to flow into the valley (at its current level, not after a few more years
of global warming). The sign is very difficult to see in this photo, so I have added a yellow arrow
pointing to it.
Proof that water can and does, in fact, collect at low points in the landscape, even when there
is little rain and the temperature is hovering above 115 degrees.
Bob and Anne standing behind the sign indicating that the surrounding area, named Badwater Basin,
is, in fact, the lowest point in the United States. We spent a bit longer here on this platform
than we had expected because there was a constant stream of tourists requesting help with
taking pictures similar to this one.
Brad and Beth, too.
The pictures of this trip are divided into several sets: