The largest national park outside of Alaska, Death Valley National Park is known for extremes....It is North America's driest and hottest spot (with fewer than 2 inches of rainfall annually and a record high of 134*F), and has the lowest elevation on the continent....282 feet below sea level at Badwater.
In 1849 emigrants bound for California's gold fields strayed into the 120 mile long basin, enduring a two month ordeal of "hunger and thirst and a deafening silence." One of the last to leave looked down from a mountain at the narrow valley and said, "Good-bye, Death Valley."
The forbidding moniker belies the beauty in this vast graben, the geological term for a sunken fragment of the Earth's crust. Here are rocks sculptured by erosion, richly tinted mudstone hills and canyons, luminous sand dunes, lush oases, and a 200 square mile salt pan surrounded by mountains rising more than 11,000 feet above sea level.
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