Death Valley, an arid, desolate region in Inyo County, California. It lies at the edge of the Mojave Desert between the Panamint and Amargosa ranges, in the southeastern part of the state. The valley is about 140 miles (225 km) long and up to 16 miles (26 km) wide; most of it lies below sea level. Its lowest point, 282 feet (86 m) below sea level, is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. Death Valley is torrid in summer and mild in winter. In 1913 the highest temperature ever recorded in the United States, 134° F. (57° C.), occurred in Death Valley. The average annual rainfall is less than two inches (50 mm).
Death Valley has very little vegetation. Much of the area consists of broad salt and alkali flats, sand dunes, and badlands. Lizards, snakes, and rodents are among the animals that live in Death Valley.
During the gold rush of 1849, parties seeking a shortcut to the California gold fields entered the valley. Because many members died they called it Death Valley. In 1860 William T. Coleman discovered extensive deposits of borax in the valley. Borax has been mined there at various times since 1881.
In 1933 Death Valley and its surrounding area were established as the Death Valley National Monument by President Herbert Hoover. In 1994 the monument was redesignated a national park. Attractions include unusual rock formations of great geological interest and Twenty Mule Team Canyon, which is traversed by a winding dirt road over which mule teams carried wagon loads of borax for many years. Telescope Peak, rising 11,049 feet (3,368 m) above sea level, provides a magnificent view of the area. Because of the high summer temperatures, the tourist season is mainly during winter.