Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park
By Jack Freer  |  Posted April 21, 2014  |  Death Valley, California

CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Jack Freer visited Death Valley National Park in California 20 times and says each trip has had its own special moment. ‘The weather and the views are always changing,’ he said. ‘The weather can vary from calm and chilly to extremely hot and windy and it is not unusual to experience a torrential desert thunderstorm complete with flash flooding.’ He says anything captivating feature about the park is its view. ‘It is a magnificent landscape with vistas that seem to go on forever,’ he said.

– Jareen, CNN iReport producer

Death Valley National Park is the lowest point in North America and one of the hottest places in the world. The park consists of 3.4 million acres and 95% is designated as wilderness. It is the largest national park in the lower 48 states.

It is an immense geological museum and a living world of exciting contrasts and wonders, from scorching valleys to snow-covered peaks, spectacular wildflower displays, beautiful sand dunes, a rich mining history and the unique and interesting Scotty’s Castle. The park is also home to several animals such as kangaroo rats and rabbits, desert bighorn sheep, coyote, Bobcat, mountain lion and mule deer.

The greatest assets are clear air, enormous open spaces that stretch toward distant horizons, and remarkable quiet. Death Valley National Park includes all the 156-mile-long Death Valley in addition to other valleys and several mountain ranges. Telescope Peak, the highest peak in the park, rises 11,049 feet above sea level and lies only 15 miles from the lowest point in North America in Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level.

Death Valley National Park is a favorite hot spot among international travelers. Foreign tourists are drawn by the thousands to experience the extreme temperatures and conditions of the park in the middle of the summer. Lodging facilities at Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells are sold out in July in August every year.

While visiting the park I have talked to people from England, Germany, Russia, France, China and Japan who have come to see and experience not only Furnace Creek but the Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater, the Funeral Mountains, Dante’s View and Darwin’s Falls. You can watch as they get lost in total amazement.

One of several man-made soaking tubs at Lower Warm spring in Saline Valley.

In the extreme heat of the summer, tourists are drawn to walk out on the salt flats at Badwater in the lowest point in North America. Extremely high heat waves radiating off the ground give people an undulating look from a distance.

A powerful winter rainstorm filled the normally dry Panamint Lake creating a reflecting surface for the Panamint Buttes in the background.

The morning light creates ever changing shadows on the sand dunes at Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley.

Hikers are a common sight on the many trails throughout the park.

Death Valley Ranch, also known as Scotty’s Castle, is nestled in the green oasis of Grapevine Canyon at the north end of Death Valley. The castle reflects the changing and challenging times of the 1920s and 1930s.

The main room of Scotty’s Castle taken during one of the many Ranger guided tours.

Death Valley National Park is a photographer’s dream. Here several line up to capture their perfect sunrise photo at the eroded and uplifted hills of Zabriskie Point.

Death Valley National Park is also a huge outdoor laboratory for scientists. Here scientists holding an active research permit look for samples for a presentation about geomicrobiology to a group of event participants at the lowest point in North America.

Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi and Death Valley National Park education specialist Stephanie Kyriazis lead a tour group at the Ubehebe Volcanic Field explaining how locations like this in the park help scientists better understand other planets.

Death Valley Photo Gallery