Salmon Glacier

Salmon Glacier
Salmon Glacier, BC, Canada

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ash Meadows NWR and first visit to Death Valley

After getting set up in the new RV Resort and yes, this is an RV resort compared to Twenty nine Palms. We ventured out the first day to Ash Meadows NWR about 18 or 30 miles depending on which way you want to enter the refuge. We took the first entrance(south entrance) off Bell Vista Rd from Pahrump, NV. We found out right away it would have been better to go the extra miles around the refuge and enter at the west gate as the road was total washboard surface for several miles. It took for ever to get to our first stop called Point of Rocks. There is a nice boardwalk that leads to a pool of crystal clear water called King's Pool. The pool contains some very rare pupfish. There are several species of these fish in the refuge. They're difficult to see because they're only about 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches long. Even in the clear water.

They are thought to be the remainders of a large ecosystem of fish species that lived in Lake Manly, which dried up at the end of the last ice age leaving the present day Death Valley. The pupfish is adapted to shallow, hot, saline water with year-round above-ground flows, but tolerant of a very wide range of temperatures (0–40 °C (32–104 °F)).

Enlarge the photos for better viewing

Of course the area is surrounded by mountains which probably is why they call it Point of Rocks.

After some photo taking and watching the fish, we headed on to the Visitor's Center and the Crystal Springs Interpretive Boardwalk. The Visitor's Center is about a year old with nice displays and information about the area and the refuge. After getting our NP Passport Book stamped and dated we then took the walk on the boardwalk, which is about a 9/10 of a mile walk. Very wheelchair accessible too. It was very interesting seeing the diversity of the landscape in the desert. It's a amazing what a little water will do.

The volunteers were very friendly and told us we should drive to Devil's Hole to see where the only species of pupfish in the world lives. So off we drove on another washboard road for about 2 miles to Devil's Hole. The area is an ongoing ecological project as they monitor the pupfish. The population ranges from 500 during breeding and as low as 200 at other times of the year. They are very protected with fencing and cameras that monitor activity around the area. We found out that 3 youths had broken through the fence a couple days before and climbed down the hole and swam in the water. Unfortunately a few of the pupfish died due to this disturbance.

It's about 500 feet to the bottom of Devil's hole. The fencing at the overlook is like a cage you look through. They are very serious about these fish. The desert pupfish is considered an endangered species. After taking in all these sights it was time to go and get some lunch so we took the long way out(a lot less rough) and headed back to Pahrump.

We knew it was going to be getting hotter here in the next few days, like in the mid to upper 90's(it was in the 70's at Ash Meadows) so we decided to make our first excursion to Death Valley the next day. It's about 90 miles to Furnace Creek Visitors Center. We found at Joshua Tree the entrance fee was $20 unless you want to get an America the Beautiful Pass for $80/yr. Well being a senior I had purchased the Senior Pass when I turned 62 which is a lifetime Pass for $10 and allows for free entrance to the National Parks. The same, of course, was true at Death Valley. What an incredible bargain.

After getting our NP Passport Book stamped and dated we started driving toward an area called The Devil's Golf Course. Once we got there we could see why. The ground is very irregular and hard as a rock.

Almost an alien like landscape. So very beautiful but so very desolate and almost hostile feeling.

After some photos and a shameless selfie we continued our tour to the lowest place in the US, Badwater Basin Salt Flats. The salt flats in Badwater Basin cover nearly 200 square miles, and are among the largest protected salt flats in the world. Salt flats are too harsh for most plants and animals to survive, yet are quite fragile. The crystals are very delicate and easily crushed and the thin upper crust of salt can break through to the mud layer below, leaving tire tracks and even footprints.

I found out that Sodium Chloride—better known as table salt—makes up the majority of salts on Badwater Basin. Other minerals found there include calcite, gypsum, and borax.

The Badwater Basin is 282 feet BELOW sea level. There is a sign on the mountain next to the basin that shows you where sea level is compared to where you are.

In the middle left of the photo on the mountain is the sea level sign.

Enlarged sea level sign

This was an incredible place to visit and extremely popular. We felt like foreigners with all the people from different countries that were there. Anyway the Salt Flat was beautiful and eerie at the same time. I made sure to kneel down in an area where no one had walked and wet my finger, touched the ground and took a taste of the salt. Yes, it was like table salt.

What a wonderful experience. The Salt Flat viewing area is about 1/4 to 1/2 mile out into the basin but well worth taking the stroll. Such a unique formation of land. The Badwater Basin also holds the record for highest temperature at 134 degrees but as the sign says "It's a DRY heat". HaHa.

We were there at about 2 pm and even though it was only in the 70's back in Pahrump, the temperature measured over 90 in the basin. Fortunately there was a little cloud cover that made it more bearable. After about 30 - 40 minutes viewing and reading about the basin we started back home.

We did take a short side trip on Artist Drive. The face of the Black Mountains along Artist's Drive is made up of the multicolored rock of the Artist Drive Formation. Areas of pink, green, purple, brown, and black rock debris drape across the mountain front, providing some of the most scenic evidence of one of Death Valley's most violently explosive volcanic periods.

The photos do NOT do this area justice. The road itself was curvy, twisty and full of amazement around every curve.

A sign at the entrance of the road indicates No vehicles over 25 feet long should enter and after some of the curves we went around it was very obvious.

It was a wonderful day and there are still areas we plan to explore before we leave the area and head to UT. More adventures to come.


  1. Glad you enjoyed Death Valley, we've always visited in mid spring or early fall when the temps are a little better. It's amazing how species adapt. 6 more years and I can get my pass, then Dave will be glad he's married to an older woman.

  2. We did enjoy our first visit, Faye. I'm sure earlier or later would be better but so far so good. Plan to go back next week before we fly back to IL to see family. 6 more years and you can be like me. :-)Older women are the best.

  3. Glad you made it to Death Valley. It's pretty awesome! I've never been to Ash Meadows. Thanks for sharing.