OLD HARMONY BORAX WORKS
Death Valley Travel Blog› entry 2 of 4 › view all entries
When Aaron and Rosie Winters filed claims on the borax deposits near Harmony in 1881, borax was so precious it was called " white gold". It was used in pottery glazes for china and porcelain enamel, as a flux and deoxidizer in welding, soldering, brazing, smelting and refining metals, as a mild antiseptic, soap and laundry aid, as a food preservative-- to name a few of its uses. Once William T. Coleman bought the claims and started up his mining operation in 1882, he faced numerous problems. J.W. S. Perry designed the transportation system of 20 mule teams to haul the borax along the rugged 165 mile journey.
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Mining was the primary activity in the area before it was protected. The first known non-Native Americans to enter Death Valley did so in the winter of 1849, thinking they would save some time by taking a shortcut to the gold fields of California. They were stuck for weeks and in the process gave the Valley its name even though only one of their group died there. Several short-lived boom towns sprung up during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to exploit minor local bonanzas of gold. The only long-term profitable ore to be mined, however, was borax; a mineral used to make soap and an important industrial compound.
The natural environment of the area has been profoundly shaped by its geology. The oldest rocks are extensively metamorphosed and at least 1.7 billion years old. Ancient warm, shallow seas deposited marine sediments until rifting opened the Pacific Ocean. Additional sedimentation occurred until a subduction zone formed off the coast. This uplifted the region out of the sea and created a line of volcanoes.
At 282 feet (86 m) below sea level, Badwater on Death Valley's floor is the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (behind Laguna del Carbón in Argentina), while Mount Whitney, only 85 miles (140 km) to the west, rises to 14,505 feet (4,421 m). This topographic relief is the greatest elevation gradient in the contiguous United States and is the terminus point of the Great Basin's southwestern drainage. Although the extreme lack of water in the Great Basin makes this distinction of little current practical use, it does mean that in wetter times the lake that once filled Death Valley (Lake Manly) was the last stop for water flowing in the region, meaning the water there was relatively saturated in dissolved materials.
Death Valley is one of the hottest and driest places in North America due to its lack of surface water and its low relief. On July 10, 1913, a record 134 °F (56.7 °C) was measured at the Weather Bureau's observation station at Greenland Ranch (now the site for the Furnace Creek Inn), which is (as of 2007) the highest temperature ever recorded on that continent.
Desert, radiator water tank near Grapevine
Desert, radiator water tank near Grapevine
The National Weather Service reports that July is the hottest month, with an average high of 114.9 °F (46.1 °C). and an average low of 86.3 °F (30.2 °C). December is the coldest month, with an average high of 65.1 °F (18.4 °C) and an average low of 37.5 °F (3.1 °C). The record low at the Furnace Creek Inn is 15 °F (-9.4 °C). There are an average of 189.3 days annually with highs of 90 °F (32.2 °C) or higher and 138 days annually with highs of 100 °F (37.8 °C). or higher. Freezing temperatures (32 °F/0 °C or lower) occur on an average of 11.7 days annually.
Death Valley Wildflower Viewing Guidelines
Will the flowers be good this year?
Where can we go to see them?
What kinds/colors will there be?
When will the peak bloom be?
These questions are often asked by people planning spring visits to Death Valley. Although there are many variables involved in the desert wildflower shows, there are a few guidelines you can use to find answers to these questions.
Some years the desert is spectacular with wildflowers; other years the blossoms are almost nonexistent (but never totally absent). A good wildflower year depends on at least three things:
* Well-spaced rainfall through-out the winter and early spring
* Sufficient warmth from the sun
* Lack of desiccating winds
There are over 1000 plant species in Death Valley National Park, including 13 species of cactus and 23 endemics (plants that are known to grow only in the Death Valley region).
The best time to see a spring floral display is in years when rainfall has been several times the Death Valley annual average of about 1.9 inches. In general, heavy rains in late October with no more rain through the winter months, will not bring out the flowers as well as rains that are evenly-spaced throughout the winter and into the spring.
Peak Blooming Periods for Death Valley are usually...
Mid February - Mid April at lower elevations (valley floor and alluvial fans)
* Best Areas: Jubilee Pass, Highway 190 near the Furnace Creek Inn, base of Daylight Pass
* Dominant species: desert star, blazing star, desert gold, mimulus, encelia, poppies, verbena, evening primrose, phacelia, and various species of cacti (usually above the valley floor).
Early April - Early May at 2,000 to 4,000 ft. elevations
* Best areas: Panamint Mountains
* Dominant species: paintbrush, Mojave desert rue, lupine, Joshua tree, bear poppy, cacti and Panamint daisies.
Late April - Early June above 4,000 ft. elevations
* Best areas: High Panamints
* Dominant species: Mojave wildrose, rabbitbrush, Panamint daisies, mariposa lilies and lupine.
we drove passed golden canyon. we didn't hike the back canyon. we just took pictures. Near Furnace Creek, road 190 climbs into the Grapevine Mountains towards the atmospheric town of Death Valley Junction.
we arrived at artist drive and artist palette, it is a side drive from the main road. A nine mile one-way scenic loop drive through the fantastically colored clay and mudstones of the Artist's Drive Formation. These ancient volcanic ashfalls have been weathered by time and hot groundwater into clays of every color from pale aqua blue-green to rich carmine red. that was a gorgeous drive.
the Devil's Golf Course is a large salt pan in Death Valley National Park, with a rough surface formed of large salt crystals. It was named after a line in a 1934 National Park Service guide book to Death Valley, which stated that "only the devil could play golf" on its surface.
In the holocene epoch, a lake covered the valley to a depth of 30 feet; the salt in Devil's Golf Course consists of the minerals that were dissolved in the lake water and left behind as the lake evaporated. With an elevation several feet above the valley floor in Badwater, the Devil's Golf Course remains dry, allowing weathering processes to sculpt the salt there into complicated forms. Through exploratory holes drilled by the Pacific Coast Borax Co. prior to Death Valley becoming a national monument in 1934, it was discovered that the salt and gravel beds of the Devil's Golf Course extend to a depth of more than 1000 feet, and later studies suggest that in places the depth ranges up to 9000 feet.
Devil's Golf Course can be reached from Badwater Road via a 1.3-mile gravel drive, closed in wet weather. It should not be confused with the actual golf course in Furnace Creek, also in Death Valley.
after 30mins, we saw scotty's castle. we did not want to spend time there. it was a little over 10am. we wanted to see more of the park before dark. however, next time we shall go. there is a good story about it. i will add later.
we saw a 2 cottonwood trees. Will said if you ever get lost in the desert. find these trees. dig to the roots, cottonwood trees absorbs water at night then release the water by morning you will have a pool of water to drink. if you can survive the next day HAHAHAHA
it was such a gorgeous view for the next 2hrs. til salt creek. we just kept pulling over to take pictures. it was getting warmer as well. the more south we went to lower we were driving. i took pics of signs showing what elevation we were at. 2000 feet....1000 feet.....sea level....below sea level.....
OUR ROAD TRIP BEGINS FROM NORTH TO SOUTH AND EXITING GOING TO BAKER, CA HOWEVER, WE ARE DRIVING AN 1HR. OUT OF OUR WAY FOR SOME GREEK FOOD AT THE MAD GREEK (SEE REVIEW) :)
we headed out to badwater it was about 15mins. drive. we saw it from the hill. you can't miss all the cars parked near it. we had a bad feeling when all we saw was a 10 x 25 feet wide of badwater....salty badwater.....
Will also noticed the "SEA LEVEL" sign is on the side of the mountain wall. WOW that is how low we are. we were being corny and took pics of the "BADWATER BASIN: 282 BELOW SEA LEVEL" sign. my digi cam could not zoom in closer. i am gonna have to steal it from Wil when he blogs it. :P
The low, salty pool at Badwater, just beside the main park road is probably the best known and most visited place in Death Valley.
Sea Level: There is not much else to see apart from an orientation table, identifying many of the surrounding mountains. High in the rocky cliffs above the road, another sign reads 'SEA LEVEL', giving a good indication of just how low the land is. Far above this, the overlook at Dante's Peak has imposing views over Badwater and the surrounding desert.
Salt Pools: Several salt trails and shallow seasonal streams lead towards other pools out across the valley. During occasional rainy periods, a large shallow lake forms, several miles across and only a few inches deep, but most of the water soon evaporates or sinks below ground. Badwater never dries out completely, and even manages to support a unique species of fish - the Death Valley pupfish, a small bluish creature which has evolved to survive in the hot saline conditions. South of the salt pools, the seasonal Amargosa River meanders for 30 miles via several routes towards the mouth of the valley, before sinking into the sand.
Heat: Apart from the high temperatures, one unusual feeling is the heaviness of the air - all movement seems more laboured and difficult than usual. The shade temperature here was 125°F when I first visited, in July 1995. It is an unforgettable experience to wander a little way out onto the salt flats, and just stand for a while in the stifling heat.
I WOULD LIKE TO COME HERE. THIS TIME TO HAVE A 4X4 TRUCK TO GO TO RACE TRACK AND SAND DUNES. ALSO UBEHABE CRATER, SCOTTY'S CASTLE, FURNACE CREEK, DANTES VIEW AND ZABRISKIE POINT.
WILL AND I HAD A GOOD TIME. GOOD COMPANY, GOOD LAUGHS, AND GOOD DAY :)
WOO HOO OFF TO BAKER FOR SOME GYROS :)
The Canyon: From the parking area, it takes about 15 minutes walking up a gentle but constant gradient, along the pebble floor to the natural bridge, which extends across the whole canyon and is quite impressive though not as graceful as the smooth sandstone arches of Utah.
there was also some wild flowers near the main road. we pulled over to take pictures of the desert gold poppies......
SALT CREEK, HOME OF THE ENDANGERED PUPFISH
Will has a "small sports car" which i don't think he doesn't. we risked to drive the graveled road to salt creek. it took us about 15mins to arrive. it was pretty bad. when we go there is was a somewhat dry creek. we had to walk on the boardwalk. as we walk more the creek was wider and more water. NO PUPFISH TO BE SEEN.
NOTE: OFF ROAD 4X4 HIGH CLEARANCE TRUCKS IS A MUST COMING TO DEATH VALLEY IF YOU WANT TO SEE THE "MUST SEE" SPOTS LIKE "THE RACE TRACK AND SAND DUNES.
The Death Valley pupfish, Cyprinodon salinus salinus, is a species of fish that is the last known survivor of what is thought to have been a large ecosystem of fish species that lived in Lake Manly which dried up at the end of the last ice age leaving the present day Death Valley in California. The pupfish is adapted to the shallow, hot, salty water of a particular part of Salt Creek that flows above ground year-round, and is also sometimes referred to as Salt Creek Pupfish. A subspecies lives in nearby Cottonwood Marsh.