Extremes are always intriguing, and how humans survive in the hottest and coldest places in the world always made me wonder. Death Valley claims to hold the record since 1913 when the temperature was recorded at 134.1°F (56.7°C) at Furnace Creek. (El Azizia, Libya has a claim of 136°F from 1922 but Wikipedia isn’t counting that so neither am I!)
Death Valley National Park has a lot more history than most parks. Native Indians tribes are indicated by archeological finds to have lived in the valley for the last 10,000 years. The white man arrived in 1849, and the valley got its name. Gold seeking pioneers heading west hired Jefferson Hunt to guide them across Utah and California from Salt Lake City. Their first two weeks travel were slow and many impatient pioneers decided to take a shortcut, hoping to avoid the Sierra Nevada mountains, following the route of the current Highway 190. They ended up abandoning their belongings and walking to civilisation from present day Stovepipe Wells. They used wood from the wagons to cook meat from their oxen as they eventually found their way in The Panamint Valley and the Walker Pass. Subsequently it became known as Death Valley.
In 1873 Borax deposits were found in the Valley, and for the next 50 years this was the main industry as the mineral was extracted and hauled out of the desert to the Mojave railroad. As mining returns faded the mining companies saw the opportunity for tourism – the workers quarters were converted into what is now the Furnace Creek Inn, and Death Valley became a popular winter holiday destination. In 1933 it was made a national monument by President Hoover.
Death Valley is famous for being the hottest, driest and lowest (Badwater Springs is 86 metres below sea level) place in America. I certainly worked up a sweat lugging my tripod, camera and lenses across those sand dunes!