Travels with Tucker

Travels with Tucker

Monday, March 31, 2014

Death Valley, geology classroom

Death Valley has been created by massive parallel uplifting plates that run North/South along the California/Nevada border.  10,000 years ago it was a lake and now it is one of the driest places on earth, getting an average of less than 2 inches of rain a year--some years it gets none.  Just 30 miles to the West, the Sierra Nevada mountains get 30 FEET of snow a year.  But as dry as DV is, the effects of water are everywhere.

I’ve never seen a place with so much erosion.  The mountains that line the valley are cracked with dozens (hundreds?)  of canyons that each have produced alluvial fans of rock and gravel that stretch for miles.  These canyons contain glaciers of rock that represent the pulverized remnants of the surrounding mountains.  The floor of the valley is filled 7,000 feet deep with eroded rock!  

Lynnae navigating Mosaic canyon
The canyons of Death Valley are amazing.  We walked up several and even drove through a few.  They are living geology lessons and more varied than one would believe possible.  Here are some highlight pictures of ones we visited.

Natural bridge down one of the canyons

There is even a place called the racetrack where the rocks slide by themselves.  We didn’t risk taking the tire-eating 26-mile dirt road safari to get there, so here is a picture, courtesy of that wonderful internet. No one has ever seen the rocks move but it is thought that after a rain, the surface mud gets so slick that the wind can blow the rocks around.  The Racetrack is a dry lake bed that is flatter than a billiard table--less than 1-1/2 inches variation over the whole 3-mile surface!

No comments:

Post a Comment