LIFE IN DEATH VALLEY: CONTRARY TO ITS NAME, DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK IS HOME TO WIDE VARIETY OF LIVING THINGS
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, Calif., June 18, 2013 – Despite its name, California’s Death Valley National Park is a place full of life.
This 3.3 million-acre is home to more than 1,000 plant species, 51 species of native mammals, 307 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, three species of amphibians and five species and one subspecies of native fish within Death Valley National Park.
“We frequently hear from guests who are surprised at just how lively Death Valley truly is,” said Phil Dickinson, director of sales and marketing for Furnace Creek Resort, which includes two distinct lodging options, a variety of restaurants, lounge, golf course and activities. “After a day spent playing in the spring-fed pool, strolling through the Inn’s lush gardens, playing a round on the world’s lowest golf course, taking a horseback trail ride, cycling the endless roads or just exploring, our visitors realize that there’s a lot more to life in Death Valley than they might have thought.”
The desert pupfish is a tiny fish that grows to a full average length of only 2½ inches. Although their average life span is six to nine months, some survive more than one year. The Death Valley pupfish is a species of fish that is the last known survivor of what is thought to have been 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 has adapted to the shallow, hot saline water found in the park.
Even though the average annual rainfall in the 3.3-million-acre park is a meager 1.9 inches, desert wildflowers have been known to put on quite the show. When enough rain does fall – in the fall – a good spring bloom will follow. Usually, starting between mid-February and early March, the first desert gold begins to bloom and is joined by flowers with such evocative names as desert star, evening primrose, verbena and poppy. By late April, the Panamint Mountains and other higher climes welcome paintbrush, lupine and Panamint daisies. Even the spiny cacti and Joshua trees may blossom. The Mojave wild rose, hardy rabbitbrush and delicate Mariposa lilies join the show. The park takes on the aspect of a Monet painting, in shades of gold, pink, purple, orange and white.
Mammals in the park tend to be smaller on average than those found in cooler climates. The largest are burros and horses, and those species were introduced to the region by man. Mule deer and desert bighorn sheep are native to the region. There are several types of small mammals such as mice that humans seldom see as well.
Reptiles include the desert iguana, banded gecko and the desert tortoise, which can live to be 80 years old. Amphibians include toads, frogs and salamanders. There are many species of butterflies in the park, with 68 types documented.
Because Death Valley provides several different elevations and varied habitats, many species of birds are found throughout the year. In addition, the long north-south valleys of the Sierra Nevada Mountains create channeling effects, and migratory birds follow these valleys and stop at desert oases like the Furnace Creek Resort. Spring and fall are the best times to view migrating birds, with the southbound birds showing up as early as late August and northbound birds flying through beginning in early March.
The location for Furnace Creek Resort was chosen by the Pacific Coast Borax Company in the 1920s because that was where water from the Funeral Mountains flowed. This mountain run-off takes hundreds of years to make its way to Furnace Creek where it is used by resort for a variety of reasons, including irrigation. The resort’s lushness attracts wildlife and supports plant life.
Furnace Creek Golf Course has several ponds that are managed by the resort. A viewing platform adjacent to the course is appreciated by birders, and the course has achieved the designation “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” from the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System (ACSS), the educational division of Audubon International. To achieve certification, a course must demonstrate it is maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in the areas of environmental planning, including wildlife and habitat management. The golf course is irrigated by water recycled from the resort’s two spring-fed swimming pools.
Furnace Creek Resort has been welcoming guests since the 1930s. The AAA Four-Diamond-rated Inn at Furnace Creek is open from mid-October through mid-May. It features 66 rooms, including two suites with a full array of amenities, fine dining, tennis courts and a spring-fed pool. Open year-round, the Ranch at Furnace Creek is situated adjacent to the golf course and features 224 rooms in a casual setting, general store, spring-fed swimming pool, tennis courts, horseback riding and the Borax Museum.
For more information about facilities in Death Valley National Park or to make room reservations at in-park lodges, call toll free at 1-888-236-7916 or 1-303-297-2757 or go to www.www.oasisatdeathvalley.com/.