Monday, April 7, 2014
Out of the Valley of Death: Geology at Fifty-five
One of the first things I tell my students (and occasionally even with some success) is "don't sleep while traveling in the vans". Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the lower 48 states, and no matter how much time one has, it's hard to take it all in. When you only have four days, it's pretty well impossible, but there is still much to see in transit between stops. On our third day out we were set to explore the northern end of Death Valley, which in a park that is mostly desert wilderness, feels even more isolated and lonely (despite the presence of Scotty's Castle up one of the side canyons).
In the picture above, one can see the valley floor beyond the dunes is interrupted by a terrace of some sort. This is the scarp for the Furnace Creek fault zone which is one of the important structural features of the Death Valley graben.
As we drove further north, the valley floor narrowed, and we soon reached an area where the alluvial fans from the two mountain ranges merged in the center of the valley. We were approaching the end of the Death Valley graben. In the distance we could see dark-colored rocks coating the surface of the alluvial fans. We had reached the volcanoes of Death Valley.
In the next post: the Ubehebes!