Saturday, September 20, 2014

Death Valley, Zabriskie Point and Twenty Mule Team Canyon - 9/19/14

From Artist's Palette, we drove north towards the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and took a right on California 190 for the short drive to Zabriskie Point. This is one of the most popular views in the park.

Zabriskie Point: The overlook is a short walk uphill from the parking area. Wind and rain have shaped rock into dramatic contours that can be seen from this site. It's a maze of vibrantly colored badlands.

In this area of Death Valley are large deposits of colemanite and uluxite; minerals referred to as borax. Starting in 1882, multiple mining claims were made in this area. One of the earliest successful mining operations was the Harmony Borax Works from 1883-1888.

Twenty Mule Team Canyon. This road is on the right traveling south from Zabriskie Point. It is an unpaved 2.7 mile, one-way, loop through the badlands. It is named for the method used to deliver mined borax from Death Valley to railroad depots 165 miles east of the park in the late 1880s.

The team consisted of 18 mules and two horses that pulled large wagons that held 10 short tons of borax. The wagons had 7' rear wheels made of iron, were 16' in length, and weighed 7,800 pounds empty. Two wagons were loaded with borax and the third held water and food for both the mules and humans. When loaded, the entire wagon train weighed over 73,000 pounds and was approximately 180' long (including the mules). No wagon ever broke down!  By 1890, borax was transported by rail.

Photos of the Twenty Mule Team Canyon.

The landscape here is so interesting, even other-worldly in some places. We are looking forward to exploring more areas in the park.

Admission to the Death Valley National Park is $20/vehicle for a 7-day pass. John's senior pass gets us in for free.


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