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Often overlooked and passed by purely from name association, the 3.4 million acre (14,000 km2) Death Valley National Park is not only the largest park in the continental  USA but arguably one of the most striking specimens of Mother Earth. Nearly every major geological era is elegantly exposed here in what sometimes appears to be one of her greatest tapestries, gloriously presenting her full spectrum.

Death Valley is a graben valley located in east-central California southeast of the Sierra Nevada range in the Great Basin, comprising much of Death Valley National Park. It runs north-south between the Amargosa Range to the east and the Panamint Range to the west; the Sylvania Mountains and the Owlshead Mountains form its northern and southern boundaries, respectively. Death Valley is considered geologically one of the best examples of the Basin and Range configuration. It is the principle feature of UNESCO's Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Preserve.

The valley itself is 130 miles (210 km) long, between six and thirteen miles (10-21 km) wide and is surrounded by steep mountain ranges: the Panamint mountains to the west, and the Black, Funeral, and Grapevine mountains to the east. And its 3 million acres of wilderness and rich cultural history make it a lifetime’s work to explore all that the valley has to offer.

The desolation of Death Valley is inspiring. Furnace Creek offers recreation, restaurants, lodging, a general store, and the Borax Museum. Cruise Artist’s Palette Drive, with its colorfully streaked rock and mineral formations. Farther north, tour Scotty’s Castle, an extravagant 1920s jewel of Spanish-Moorish architecture.

Death Valley is also home to the Timbisha tribe, who have inhabited the valley for at least the past 1000 years. Some families still live in the valley at Furnace Creek. The name of the valley, tümpisa, means 'rock paint' and refers to the valley as a source of red ochre paint. Another village in the valley was located in Grapevine Canyon near the present site of Scotty's Castle. It was called maahunu, the meaning of which is uncertain although hunu means 'canyon'.


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