Geography of Death Valley

Learn Ten Facts about Death Valley

USA, California, Inyo County, Death Valley National Park, Zabriskie Point trail at sunset

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Death Valley is a large part of the Mojave Desert located in California near its border with Nevada. Most of Death Valley is in Inyo County, California and comprises most of Death Valley National Park. Death Valley is significant to the United States geography because it is considered the lowest point in the contiguous U.S. at an elevation of -282 feet (-86 m). The region is also one of the hottest and driest in the country.

The Vast Area

Death Valley has an area of about 3,000 square miles (7,800 sq km) and runs from the north to the south. It is bounded by the Amargosa Range to the east, the Panamint Range to the west, the Sylvania Mountains to the north and the Owlshead Mountains to the south.

From Lowest to Highest

Death Valley is located only 76 miles (123 km) from Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous U.S. at 14,505 feet (4,421 m).

The Climate

The climate of Death Valley is arid and because it is bounded by mountains on all sides, hot, dry air masses often get trapped in the valley. Therefore, extremely hot temperatures are not uncommon in the area. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Death Valley was 134°F (57.1°C) at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913.


Average summer temperatures in Death Valley frequently exceed 100°F (37°C) and the average August high temperature for Furnace Creek is 113.9°F (45.5°C). By contrast, the average January low is 39.3°F (4.1°C).

The Big Basin

Death Valley is a part of the U.S. Basin and Range province as it is a low point surrounded by very high mountain ranges. Geologically, basin and range topography is formed by fault movement in the region that causes the land to drop down to form valleys and land to rise up to form mountains.

Salt in the Land

Death Valley also contains salt pans which indicate that the area was once a large inland sea during the Pleistocene epoch. As the Earth began to warm into the Holocene, the lake in Death Valley evaporated to what it is today.

The Native Tribe

Historically, Death Valley has been home to Native American tribes and today, the Timbisha tribe, which has been in the valley for at least 1,000 years, inhabits the region.

Becoming a National Monument

On February 11, 1933, Death Valley was made a National Monument by President Herbert Hoover. In 1994, the area was re-designated as a National Park.


Most of the vegetation in Death Valley consists of low-lying shrubs or no vegetation unless near a water source. At some of Death Valley's higher locations, Joshua Trees and Bristlecone Pines can be found. In the spring after winter rains, Death Valley is known to have large plant and floral blooms in its wetter areas.


Death Valley is home to many different types of small mammals, birds, and reptiles. There are also a variety of larger mammals in the area which include Bighorn Sheep, coyotes, bobcats, kit foxes and mountain lions.
To learn more about Death Valley, visit the official website of Death Valley National Park.


Wikipedia. (2010, March 16). Death Valley - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from:
Wikipedia. (2010, March 11). Death Valley National Park - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from:

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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Death Valley." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Briney, Amanda. (2023, April 5). Geography of Death Valley. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of Death Valley." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).