Death Valley is a place of extremes. With record-breaking heat, low rainfall, and one of the lowest places on Earth, Death Valley has a very harsh environment.
Located mostly in Inyo County in eastern California, Death Valley spans an area of 3,000 square miles (7,800 km2). The largest national park south of Alaska, Death Valley National Park has three million acres of designated wilderness and hundreds of miles of backcountry roads.
Death Valley is a 156-mile-long north/south-trending trough bordered by the the Amargosa Mountain Range to the east and the Panamint Mountain Range to the west.
Learn some interesting geography facts in this article about Death Valley.
Hottest Recorded Temperature on Earth
The confluence of several topographical and geographic factors have resulted in some of Earth’s highest air temperatures. Solar heating of the desert floor, the movement of warm air from adjacent areas (known as advection), adiabatic heating as air descends the ranges west of Death Valley, and the trapping of air in the valley all contribute to scorching temperatures.
On July 10, 1913, Furnace Creek Ranch recorded the highest officially registered air temperature on Earth with a reading of 56.7 °C (134.1 °F). More recently, an air temperature of 54.4 °C (129.9 °F), was recorded at Death Valley’s Furnace Creek on August 16, 2020 by the National Park Service.
Death Valley is the Lowest Point in the United States
Death Valley is One of the Driest Places in the United States
Moist air from the Pacific Ocean has to pass over four mountain ranges as it moves east. Most of the precipitation from this air is released on the western side of those mountains.
When enough rainfall has been received in Death Valley, spring brings a burst of color as wildflowers bloom. When deep soaking rains happen, superblooms will occur with many areas of Death Valley carpeted by wildflowers that bring pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.
Despite the Lack of Rain, Death Valley Has Fish
Six species of fish make their homes in the various spring fed pools, caverns, and other aquatic environments in Death Valley.
One of the world’s rarest fish, the Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) is found in the top 80 feet of the 93 degree cavern waters Devils Hole in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nye County, Nevada, a detached unit of Death Valley National Park.
The 40 acre (16 ha) habitat of the Devils Hole pupfish is one of the smallest in the world for a vertebrate.
Tsunamis in Devils Hole
The tidal effects of large magnitude earthquakes can impact the water at Devils Hole from as far away as Japan, Indonesia, Chile, and Mexico.
The Racktrack is a dry lake bed, known as a playa, that has moving rocks. The playa gets its name from the race-like tracks caused by boulders of dolomite and syenite slowly moving across the lake bed over time.
For a long time, people didn’t know how the rocks were able to move seemingly on their own. In 2013, researchers discovered that a combination of melting ice on the floor of the lake bed with light winds provided the force to move these rocks.
Created by steam and gas explosions from magma reaching groundwater, Ubehebe Crater is a large volcanic crater 600 feet deep and half a mile across.
Tallest Sand Dunes in California
The Eureka Sand Dunes in northern Death Valley are the tallest sand dunes in California. The dunes occupy an area only 3 miles long and 1 mile wide but rise 680 feet.
Eureka Dunes are home to rare and endangered species of plants and animals like the Eureka Dunes evening primrose (Oenothera californica ssp. eurekensis).
The range of two other plant species is restricted to these dunes: Eureka Dunegrass (Swallenia alexandrae) and Shining Milkvetch (Astragalus lentiginosus micans).