Death Valley National Park
"Valley of Death" Since 1949


© 2002 Michael R. Bray
All rights reserved.


Death Valley Primer

Welcome to the Death Valley Primer Page  

This page is still being built, but feel free to review the 1, 2, and 3-day touring guides and other general information about Death Valley.

The rest of this site is (or will be) dedicated to my own chronicles and varied interests in the Death Valley region.


Death Valley's geography is as varied and unique as any geographic region of comparable size on earth. Located in south eastern California, Death Valley is in the heart of the Basin and Range region that makes up much of the Mojave region. Death Valley was formed as the earth's crust in this region was stretched and pulled apart. This forces large block structures of the earth's crust to "sink" into the gaps created by the stretching process. These down-dropped blocks become valleys (grabens) such as Owens, Panamint, and Death Valleys, and the interspersed structures become the mountain ranges (horsts) such as the Panaimint, Inyo, and Funeral mountain ranges.

The floor of Death Valley encompasses the lowest point on the North American continent, Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level. From this location, one can gaze up at Telescope Peak which towers more than 11,300 feet above the Death Valley floor, and only 11 miles distant. From the top of this monumental peak, one can clearly see both the lowest point in the northern hemisphere at Badwater, and the Highest point in the contiguous 48 United State at Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada's some 150 miles to the west.

Death Valley Geography at a Glance
Area (Death Valley Proper) Valley Width
Valley Length 112 mi.
Valley Width 5 mi. to 15 mi.
Area (Death Valley Nat'l Park) 3,340,410 acres
Highest Point

11,049 ft.
Telescope Peak

Lowest Point -282 ft.
Record High Temperature 134 F.
Furnace Creek, 7/10/1913
Record Low Temperature
(Valley Floor)
15 F.
Furnace Creek, 1/8/1913
Average Annual Precipitation
(Valley Floor)
1.6 in. (pre 1970)
2.5 in. (post 1970)


Death Valley is dry. There. I said it. I know it's obvious, but it's important to know. Death Valley is dry and it is exceptionally good at making other things dry too. Open a loaf of bread, and then forget to seal it back up within 15 minutes. You know what you get? A loaf of crackers, that's what you get! Bring water. Bring chap stick. Drink the water and use the chapstick -- both in copious quantities. You'll thank me later.

Most of the floor of Death Valley receives on average less than 2.5 inches of rainfall per year. Most of this 2.5 inches of rainfall arrives in the summer as monsoonal thunderstorms fed by subtropical moisture flowing northward from the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California. This is to say, that most of Death Valley's significant precipitation falls all at once as sometimes-violent thunderstorms. Such violent weather activity often leads to localized flash flooding, sometimes with little or no warning as dry canyon washes channel torrential floods from rainstorms miles away.

Oh yeah, Death Valley is hot too. Not all the time, of course, but when it gets hot in Death Valley, it gets HOT in Death Valley. Over the summer months of 2001, Death Valley recorded 154 consecutive days of temperatures above 100 degrees fahrenheit. Temperatures over 120 degrees fahrenheit are VERY common on the valley floor in the summer months.

Hydrate, and be careful out there!

Death Valley Fun Facts

Death Valley Fun Facts

Hot & Cold Running Water

The famous blistering heat of Death Valley can result in some interesting and humorous adapations for folks who must live in such a hostile environment.

Some park staff and service personnel living at Cow Creek just north of Furnace Creek on the floor of Death Valley make an unusual adaptation during the summer months. The plumbing that supplies water to Cow Creek residents from the source spring a few miles away is buried just a few inches below the dusty ground surface for much of this distance.

In the summer months, the sun heats the water along its journey to near scalding temperatures. In order for residents to have nearly-cool water on hand at their fawcets in the summer, they turn off their water heaters and store unheated water in the insulated tank. Gradually this water cools to reasonable levels of tepidness.

Thusly, during the blazing days of summer, cool water is delivered to Cow Creek residents from their Hot water taps, and hot water is dispensed from the Cold tap.

If you have a Death Valley Fun Fact that you'd like to share, please email me at

Death Valley Primer - Death Valley facts and information at a glance.

Day Trip Guide - Only have a day or two to visit the largest National Park in these 48 contiguous states? These quick trip suggestions might help you make the most out of your brief glimpse of Death Valley.

Death Valley Safety - Don't lose your cool or your life when visiting Death Valley. Here are some safety tips and reminders to help you plan a safe visit to Death Valley National Park.