Over winter holiday in Nevada the hubs and I took what turned out to be our favorite day trip ever to Death Valley National Park. Death Valley is located within the Mojave Desert, the smallest of the four North American deserts. The name “Mojave” comes from the Native American word “Hamakhaave,” which means “beside the water.” Long ago there was much more water here but geologic forces over time raised moountain ranges effectively shutting off most of the rainfall. The Mojave is a “rainshadow” desert, which is an area of dry land on the leeward side of a mountain range. High mountains on the west block the movements of wet winter storms.
The Mojave is known as “high desert,” with elevation ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 feet. It changes from a cold desert in the northern section and a hot desert in the southern section. The is also a transition desert from the Sonoran Desert to the Great Basin. In excess of 25,000 square miles the Mojave occupies portions of southeastern California as well as Nevada, Arizona and Utah. The Park comprises of more than 3.3 million acres of amazing scenery. It is also unique in that it contains the lowest, hottest and driest location in North America – Badwater Basin in Death Valley. Nearly 550 square miles of its area lies below sea level.
Key areas in the Mojave Desert are Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Monument, Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Mojave National Preserve. The Mojave is home to more than 200 endemic species. “Endemic” species are organisms that ONLY live in a particular location on earth and are naturally found nowhere else.
We left Las Vegas well before dawn for Death Valley National Park. Follow along with us on our journey if you wish. The route we took: I-215 to Highway 160 west (Blue Diamond Road). West on Tacoma Road which changes to Old Spanish Trail Highway as it crossed into California. North on Highway 127 through Shoshone to Death Valley Junction. West on Highway 190 into the Death Valley National Park and various stops (Zabriskie Point, Furnace Creek), south on Badwater Road/highway 178 (Artist’s Pallette and Badwater Basin) and out the 178 to Pahrump and back to Las Vegas. More to come….
Sources: DesertUSA.com, the National Park Service and the Mojave Desert Land Trust.