Death Valley National Park is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere and one of the hottest places in the world. It is also a vast geological museum, containing examples of most of the earth's geological eras. Here, plant and animal species, some of which occur nowhere else in the world, have adapted to the harsh desert environment. Humans have adjusted to these severe conditions, as evidenced by extensive archeological sites; historical sites related to successive waves of prospectors, miners, and homesteaders; present-day residences of Native Americans; and the current resort developments and active mines.
Perhaps the Park's greatest assets today are the clear air, vast open spaces that stretch toward distant horizons, and the overwhelming silence. Approximately 1.2 million people a year (1999 numbers) come to Death Valley to experience the stark and lonely vastness of the valley; the panorama of rugged canyons and mountains; the pleasures of the dry, moderate winter climate; the challenge of the hot, arid summer; the relief of the cooler mountains; and the reminders of frontier and Native American ways of life.
Death Valley National Park includes all of Death Valley, a 156-mile-long north/south-trending trough that formed between two major block-faulted mountain ranges: the Amargosa Range on the east and the Panamint Range on the west. Telescope Peak, the highest peak in the Park and in the Panamint Mountains, rises 11,049 feet above sea level and lies only 15 miles from the lowest point in the United States in the Badwater Basin salt pan, 282 feet below sea level. The California Desert Protection Act added most of the Saline, Eureka, northern Panamint, and Greenwater valleys to the Park.