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Death Valley

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DEATH VALLEY, Cal., a low desert in Inyo County, near the Nevada border. The name of this region was given by a survivor of an emigrant party of 30 who, in 1849 or 1850, lost their way here, and of whom, after endur ing indescribable sufferings, 18 perished in the sands. No other such spot is known. Like all the great valleys of California, it lies oblong from north to south. Its length is about 150 miles; width varies from 10 to 35; surface about 210 feet lower than that of the the lowest point of dry land in the United States. It is interesting to note that Mount Whitney, the highest point in the United States (14,501 feet), lies at a distance of less than 80 miles from the point of lowest depression. The Panamint Mountains shut out from it the moist winds of the Pacific. In the August atmosphere there is less than one-half of 1 per cent of moisture. The surrounding country is made up of volcanic ranges — black, red, green, yel low and brown—which have furnished the valley with the borax now found there.

On the north of the valley is Ralston Desert, on the west Panamint Desert, on the south Mojave Desert and Amargosa Desert is on the east. Death Valley has the lowest depression. Summer beat here rises to 137° F. or more, far higher than anywhere else in the Western world. Death Valley, as seen from the summit of the Panamint Range, presents in November a long gray waste desert, in which there are nar row bands of white made by thin deposits of borax; and to the south is seen a thin line like a blade of steel — the Amargosa River, as it dies away upon entering Death Valley sink It is a sluggish, dead stream, and evaporation and absorption at last take it all. The land was once the centre of a system of lakes. Toward their summit, the Panamint Mountains are of carboniferous limestone formation, rifted and worn, with a very slight growth of pifion, pine, mahogany and juniper, near the crests; and below the vegetation becomes more scant. In the gorges and narrow canons are seen numer ous vines and creepers, on which grow wild gourds resembling oranges, also similar to the bitter desert apples that grow near the site of ancient Sodom. Here also are the most distorted forms of the cacti, and an inferior growth of greasewood or palaverde. The wealth of this

desert is wholly mineral.

A sand-storm playing in Death Valley is a wonderful sight. Sand-augers rise like slender stems, reaching up into the burning atmosphere for thousands of feet and terminating in a bushy cloud. They travel hither and thither and grad ually fade from sight. Here mirage raises up spectral cities, groves, fields and tree-margined rivers. A low ruin will seem to be hundreds of feet high; arrow-weeds are magnified into stately palms; and crows walking on the ground appear as men on horseback Besides crows, here are seen a few poor jack-rabbits, mangy coyotes, buzzards, horned toads, red-eyed rattle snakes, mice and mountain rats; and in the Pan amint Range there are still a few bighorns or Rocky Mountain sheep.

At the summit of the Panamint and Funeral mountains, the thermometer at times, it is said, falls to 30 degrees below zero. The mineral wealth of this region is great. In the Panamint Range are many mines of antimonial silver ore; and copper, gold, iron, travertine, onyx and marble are also found. In the Funeral Range, gold, silver, lead, copper and antimony have been found in paying quantities, while the thick strata or measures of the east and southeast hills show almost inexhaustible quantities of colemanite, a borate of lime named for W. T. Coleman, who was one of the first to discover this deposit and find out its richness in borax. Very rich gold quartz has been taken from mines along the route traveled by . the ill-fated old emigrant party. Human society in Death Valley is con fined to a few miners in the Funeral, Calico and Panamint mountains, some few roving bands of Piute Indians and a few squaw-men owning cattle and horses: Visitors to Death Valley should not go earlier than 15 October, nor later than 15 April; no one should attempt to cross it while a sand-storm is blowing; a gallon of water is needed for each person in a party, and three gallons for each horse. At present one can go from Dagget on the Atlantic and Pa cific Railroad,. but the route is little better than from Panamint to Furnace Creek and up through Nevada via Pioche, Nev.