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Naked Nature - The Geological Wonders of Death Valley National Park


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Naked Nature - The Geological Wonders of Death Valley National Park

  1. 1. DEATH VALLEY NAKED NATURE: THE GEOLOGICAL WONDERS OF By Chris Austin Photo by flickr photographer Alaskan Dude.
  2. 2. Hottest, driest, lowest: Death Valley is all of these. Photo by flickr photographer ah zut.
  3. 3. Its very name seems to imply that it is a lifeless inferno, perhaps even dangerously so.
  4. 4. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Death Valley is home to an stunning variety of flora and fauna, some uniquely adapted to the harsh environment. Photo by flickr photographer niiice dave.
  5. 5. With elevations ranging from below sea level to over 11,000 feet, Death Valley encompasses four major life zones: The Lower Sonoran, the Upper Sonoran, a transition zone, and the Sub-Alpine zone. With every rise in elevation, the cooler temperatures and the increased rainfall means that different species of plants and animals can find suitable habitat. Photo by flickr photographer Chris Grier.
  6. 6. And in the wetter years, parts of the valley burst into spectacular fields of color in showy displays of wildflowers. Photo by flickr photographer Ken McCown.
  7. 7. Death Valley is located in southeastern California, alongside the Nevada border.
  8. 8. With it’s pattern of mountain ranges with valleys in between, Death Valley is part of the Basin and Range Province of the southwestern United States. Photo of Death Valley from a space shuttle mission. Map created by Daniel Mayer using data from the National Park Service metadata.
  9. 9. In the Basin and Range Province, the Earth’s crust is slowly being pulled apart, creating large faults that are generally aligned north-to-south. Along these fault lines, mountains are being uplifted while the valleys are down-dropping, producing the distinctive pattern of steep mountain ranges separated by deep valleys. For more on the Basin and Range Province, click here:
  10. 10. There are many things to see in Death Valley. Here is a look at some of them. By Jewel House Photography By Morro Bay Chuck
  11. 11. ZABRISKE POINT The badlands of Zabriske Point were formed when silt and clay were deposited at the bottom of one of Death Valley’s prehistoric lakes. The sediments were then compressed and cemented to form a soft rock called mudstone.
  12. 12. When it rains here, there is no vegetation to hold the water, so it rushes down the steep slopes, carrying loosened particles with it. Tiny rills form, which cut into deeper gullies as the rain continues.
  13. 13. The yellow, tan and brown colors are from iron minerals exposed to air, and the darker colors are volcanic ash and lava flows. For more information, click here:
  14. 14. TWENTY MULE TEAM CANYON The road through this canyon gives you a close-up view of the colorful rocks that make up Zabriske Point.
  15. 15. Prospectors didn’t find gold or silver here, but they did find borax , dubbed the “white gold of the desert”. Borax was mined beginning in the late 1800s, producing $30 million worth by 1927. There is only one mine currently operating in Death Valley today. For more on the history of Borax and 20-mule teams, go to:
  16. 16. HARMONY BORAX WORKS The Harmony Borax Works began operation in 1882, employing 40 workers. When in full operation, the mine produced three tons of borax per day. For more on Death Valley’s mining history, click here: history/mining-history.html
  17. 17. Today you can see the remains of the borax mill, and learn how the borax was processed. Pictures on this page by flickr photographer 123_456.
  18. 18. DESERT VARNISH The dark brown to nearly black rocks are coated with a thin layer of iron, manganese oxides and clay minerals, the result of a natural weathering process taking thousands of years to accumulate. The varnish is actually a result of a biogeochemical process involving colonies of microscopic bacteria living on the rock surface. To learn more, visit:
  19. 19. DANTE’S VIEW Here, at 5475 feet above sea level, you can look down at Badwater, 280 feet below sea level. Most of the valley floor is a vast salt pan covering 200 square miles. Photo by flickr photographer Andrew Mace.
  20. 20. Even though the view is immense, you still cannot see the valley in its entirety; Death Valley is more than 100 miles long. Much of the valley floor is below sea level, and it is still sinking.
  21. 21. The valley floor, called a graben, is a block of land bordered by parallel faults. The graben is moving downward, while the horsts (or mountains) are moving upwards, a indication of tensional forces and crustal stretching that is occurring here.
  22. 22. GOLDEN CANYON This canyon was formed by flash floods washing sediments, rocks and mud down towards the valley floor.
  23. 23. There was once a road here, but it was washed out by a flash flood in 1976.
  24. 24. The rocks here are the same composition as Zabriske Point. The layers were once horizontal, but the uplifting of the mountains has tilted the sediments 45 degrees (or more). Take a virtual hike up Golden Canyon here: .html
  25. 25. FURNACE CREEK INN The Furnace Creek Inn was built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company in 1927 as a way to attract tourists to Death Valley and save their newly-built railroad. Photo by Rachael Moore.
  26. 26. The Inn was a success but the railroad still ended up closing as people preferred to arrive by car. Photo by Judy Baxter.
  27. 27. The Inn is still in operation today, open mid-October to mid-May. Summer guests are accommodated at the Furnace Creek Ranch. Photo by Ian Joyce.
  28. 28. Photo by Rich Luhr. Photo by Rachael Moore.Photo by Steve Ryan.. Photo by Judy Baxter. The resort features a spring-fed pool, the world’s lowest golf course, lush gardens, tennis, horseback riding, an air-strip and The Borax Museum. Find out more here: http://www.nps.g ov/deva/historyc ulture/fcinn.htm
  29. 29. DEVIL’S GOLF COURSE The salty, lumpy residue was left here after the last significant lake evaporated about 2000 years ago, forming a salty crust 3 to 5 feet thick.
  30. 30. Heat and cold, as well as cycles of solution/dissolution from occasional rainstorms have caused the salt layers to expand and contract over the years, creating this jumbled mess of salty crust.
  31. 31. New salt crystals continue to form as the saline groundwater seeps to the surface and evaporates. The newer crystals are white; the older crystals are covered in dust. Find out more here: Photo by flickr photographer Alaskan Dude.
  32. 32. BADWATER Badwater is considered the lowest spot in North America. It is also one of the hottest.
  33. 33. A sign up on the mountain notes where sea level is in relation to where you are standin Photo by flickr photographer tomspixels.
  34. 34. Turn and look the other way, and you are standing at the lowest point, looking at the highest point. Telescope Peak, elev. 11,043 ft Badwater. -282 ft Photo by flickr photographer Andrew Mace.
  35. 35. The shallow pool of water is fed by groundwater seeping up through a fault boundary. The water is saltier than the sea. Find out more here: Photo by flickr photographer Gouldy99.
  36. 36. ARTIST’S PALETTE Here at the Artist’s Palette, nature has painted the mountainside for you.
  37. 37. The red, pink, yellow, orange and brown colors result mainly from the iron oxides hermatite and limonite. The violets and greens are from minerals found in volcanic ash. Photo by Ray Nordeen, NPS Photo by Tom Bean, NPS Find out more here: deva/ftart1.html
  38. 38. RACETRACK PLAYA Photo by flickr photographer Stuck Behind the Lens. Here, the rocks appear to have been moved as if by some invisible hand, but no one has ever seen them in motion.
  39. 39. They don’t even take a straight or logical path some times. How do they do it? Find out here: Photo by flickr photographer Seamonkey78704
  40. 40. ALLUVIAL FANS An alluvial fan is a fan-shaped deposit that is formed when rushing water pushes mud, rocks and other debris down a canyon and out onto a flat plain. Find out more about alluvial fans here: Photos on this page by Marli Miller.
  41. 41. SCOTTY’S CASTLE Photo by flickr photographer parks_traveler. Who was Scotty, and what is a moorish castle doing in Death Valley?
  42. 42. “Scotty”, also known as Death Valley Scotty, was the area’s most famous prospector. He was a con man, but a charming one. Always talking about his ‘secret gold mine’ in Death Valley and looking for backers, he told everyone he had built this house with the money from his mine, but in reality, the mansion belonged to Scotty’s wealthy east coast friend Albert Johnson, who had built it as a vacation villa. Find out more here: castle.htm Photo by flickr photographer Jewel House Photography.
  43. 43. All photos on this slide by flickr photographer –libby.
  44. 44. UBEHEBE CRATER Photo by flickr photographer deck chair. Created by a volcanic explosion, the Ubehebe Crater is over a half a mile wide and 770 feet deep.
  45. 45. Photo by flickr photographer wisconsin hiker. Molten rock rose along fractures in the rock, where it mixed with groundwater, superheating the water and causing an explosion that scattered rocks and cinders over six square miles.
  46. 46. The older fan deposits are lighter in color; the darker colors are cinders were dumped on top after the eruption. The cinders also form the dark gray soil that is prevalent in the surrounding area.. Photo by flickr photographer Andrew Mace.
  47. 47. Ubehebe is the largest volcanic crater in the area. There are over a dozen smaller craters nearby. To learn more, visit: Photo by Peter Sanchez, NPS Photo by Marli Miller.
  48. 48. DEVIL’S CORNFIELD Picture by flickr photographer Andrew Mace At the Devil’s Cornfield, the arrowroot plants grow in rows, resembling cornshocks. The Indians sometimes used the plant for arrow shafts
  49. 49. SAND DUNES Dunes form when there is a source of sand and wind.
  50. 50. Once sand begins to accumulate, ripples and dunes can form. Photo by flickr photographer Ice Nine John.
  51. 51. The dunes are formed when the wind moves the sand up to the top of the pile until it is so steep that the pile collapses under its own weight, coming to rest when it reaches the right angle to keep the dune stable. Photo by flickr photographer deckchair.
  52. 52. Find out about Death Valley sand dunes here: And a lot more about sand dunes in general here: .
  53. 53. WILDROSE CHARCOAL KILNS Photo by flickr photographer ikes. These kilns were constructed in 1877, and were used to make charcoal for two nearby smelters. For more information:
  54. 54. SARASOTA SPRINGS Located in the southernmost portion of the park, Sarasota Springs is Death Valley’s third largest marsh, supporting many rare species. Photo by Stan Shebs, WikiCommons For more information, click here:
  55. 55. IN CLOSING …. Death Valley is a land of superlatives which perhaps has given it a bad rap …
  56. 56. However, “ … much of the Death Valley lore and its sometimes gruesome names were made up by prospectors and promoters who wanted to embellish its mysterious reputation. Relatively few people have died from the elements in Death Valley ... ” Photo by flickr photographer omnipotentpoobah.
  57. 57. Photo by flickr photographer Outdoor PDK. “ … Its landscapes are starkly beautiful, not lifeless; specialized communities of plants and animals thrive in the diverse environments in the valley and its surrounding mountains. … “
  58. 58. “ … When treated with respect, Death Valley is seldom deadly.”* *Quoted from the Road Guide to Death Valley, p. 22. See References Photo by flickr photographer Picture Taking Fool.
  59. 59. FOR MORE INFORMATION: Death Valley National Park, official website from the National Park Service: Geology of Death Valley by USGS: Death Valley Wikipedia entry: Pictures used in this presentation are mine (the author’s), unless otherwise noted. Many (if not most) of the pictures came from the flickr website, used under the Creative Commons license. Others pictures came from WikiCommons, the USGS and the National Park Service A NOTE ABOUT THE PICTURES USED REFERENCES Death Valley Field Trip, by USGS: Death Valley: The Story Behind the Scenery, by Bill Clark, KC Publications, 1992 Road Guide to Death Valley, by Barbara and Robert Decker; Double Decker Press, 1989
  60. 60. Presentation by: Chris Austin Maven’s Manor Thank you for looking! Photo by Andrew Mace.