The largest national park in the lower 48 states, Death Valley is known for extremes: It is North America's driest and hottest spot with average annual rainfall of less than 2 inches and the hottest recorded temperature of 134°F. The land is being pulled apart faster than it can be filled in by erosion creating the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere--282 feet below sea level at Badwater. Telescope Peak, towering above the valley floor tops out at 11,049 feet, along with the other Panamint Range peaks, contribute to blocking moisture coming in from the northwest by capturing the majority of the rainfall.
These extremes create scenic vistas and ecological niches that support a startling biological diversity. Over 1,000 native plant and wildlife species coax out a living here, some that are found nowhere else. To protect this extraordinary natural landscape and the wildlife within, Congress in 1994, changed Death Valley from a national monument to a national park.
© Greg Clure Photography