Explore Geology
geology fieldnotes title

Death Valley

National Park

California & Nevada

cover of park brochure

park geology subheading
Photo of road through Death Valley
Death Valley National Park, California & Nevada

Death Valley. The name is foreboding and gloomy. Yet here in this valley, much of it below sea level, or in its surrounding mountains you can find spectacular wildflower displays, snow-covered peaks, beautiful sand dunes, abandoned mines and industrial structures, and the hottest spot in North America.

G.K. Gilbert, a geologist who worked in the area in the 1870s, noted that the rock formations were "beautifully delineated on the slopes of the distant mountains, revealing at a glance relations that in a fertile country would appear only as the results of extended and laborious investigation." The rock layers that Gilbert noticed comprise a nearly complete record of the earth's past, but that record has been jumpled out of sequence. The reason is that the rock layers that form the mountains are very ancient, but only in recent geologic time have they risen.

Map of Death Valley
Even as the mountains rose, erosion began to wear them down. An example of this is the formation of the alluvial fans. Intermittent streams, resulting mostly from the bursts of infrequent rains, rush down the steep canyons scouring boulders, soil, and other debris and pushing and carrying the whole mass with it and then depositing it on the valley floor at the canyon's mouth.

Cross section diagram of Death Valley geology
Because of the faulting in Death Valley, the vertical rise from the lowest point to the top of Telescope Peak is one of the greatest in the United States. The diagram at right, exaggerated five times, shows the cross section indicated on the map at left.

park maps subheading

The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.

For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.

photo album subheading

A general photo album for this park can be found here.

For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.

books, videos, cds subheading
Cover of Geology of Death Valley book
An Introduction to the Geology of Death Valley
Collier, Michael., 1990
Death Valley Natural History Association
Library of Congress Number: 90-081612, paperback, 60 pages, full color illustrations.

Please visit the Geology Books and Media webpage for additional sources such as text books, theme books, CD ROMs, and technical reports.

Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
ISBN 0-393-92407-6
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!

Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.

geologic research subheading

Information about the park's research program is available on the park's research webpage.

For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.

The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.

A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.

selected links subheading

NPS Geology and Soils Partners

NRCS logoAssociation of American State Geologists
NRCS logoGeological Society of America
NRCS logoNatural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
USGS logo U.S. Geological Survey

teacher feature subheading

General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.

For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.
updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/parks/deva/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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