As promised, part two of our visit to beautiful Death Valley documented with Ed’s wonderful photos of this unique landscape.
Harmony Borax Works
Borax was discovered near Furnace Creek in 1881 and by 1884 the Harmony Borax Works was processing the ore. The greatest obstacle to this venture was the 165 mile distance to Mojave, the nearest railhead. Wagons weighing 7,800 pounds empty were constructed to haul the ore. A “train” of two of these wagons plus a metal water tank where hitched to a team of 18 mules and 2 horses. When loaded it weighed in at 73,200 lbs, (36.5 tons) and it took ten days to haul the ore from the mine to the rail yard. Although only operating for 6 years, the 20 Mule Team is still Death Valley’s most famous symbol.
The two wagons and the water tank pulled by the twenty mule teams.
At Furnace Creek there is a wonderful little museum all about Death Valley and the people who lived and died here. This borax wagon wheel is seven feet high and the iron tire is six inches wide.
A .8 mile boardwalk loop which affords an up close look at pickleweed and salt grass growing in the salt marsh and along Salt Creek, which is also the only home to the Salt Creek Pupfish.
There IS water in Death Valley and Salt Creek is proof of that. However it is so salty precious little, animal or plant can survive in it or near it.
Salt Creek Pupfish can and do survive even though some summers there is only a small bit of water left after evaporating in the heat.
Pickleweed thrives in this salty soil.
A harsh place but the sound of streams is nice and the same anywhere.
Devil’s Corn Field
Near the Mesquite Flat Dunes, Devil’s Corn Field is a flat plain covered with large clumps of salt tolerant Arrowweed. Catching and holding windblown sand at their base, these tall straight stalked grasses look very much like sheaves of harvested corn.
Mesquite Flat Dunes
The best known and most easily accessible sand dunes in Death Valley, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes while not particularly high, the tallest is 100 feet, they do cover a vast area.
The Ubehebe (YOO-bee-HEE-bee) Crater and the smaller Little Hebe Crater and several other small craters in the area, are known as Maar volcanos. They are created when hot magna rising through a fault flashes ground water into steam which expands with incredible pressure releasing in a tremendous explosion called a hydrovolcanic eruption.
Ubehebe Crater is over a half mile wide and 400 feet deep.
You should have heard Marti saying, “Edward!” as I kept inching closer to this 400 foot tumble.
We circumnavigated the larger Ubehebe and a small unnamed crater next to it and in front of Little Hebe crater.
Little Hebe has the distinction of its entire rim being intact thus indicating it may be the youngest crater.
From Little Hebe looking back to Ubehebe note our RV there on the far left edge for scale.
I be, you be, we be at Ubehebe Crater! Note again the RV a half mile away across the crater.
This raven and his missus followed us nearly all the way around the crater until they realized there was no treats coming and another carload of tourists pulled into the parking lot. Off they went. At one point we watched him dig up an anthill and eat ants. Yummers.
NOTE: Several postings ago I mentioned more research needed to be done about the bones we found in Banshee Canyon at Hole In The Wall. I did more investigating and we are now 99% sure the bones and certainly the two skulls are Harris Antelope Squirrels which we also saw playing on the rocks there. That being the case, the feasting almost had to be by owls. Hawks might also partake, but we believe owls would be more likely to live in the holes in the rock walls.
The third and last photo collection of Death Valley is coming real soon!