Coke Smith Photography & Travelogue

Two Weeks in Death Valley (Seven Years in a Row)!

A desert tortoise seen at the visitor's center in Death Valley (not normally in the park). 


I thought about putting Death Valley with the Deserts of the Southwest pages, but the park is such a special place for me that I decided to give it its own page.  For several years I was privileged to teach a course through Sierra College titled, “The Natural History of Death Valley National Monument”, which involved ten-day field seminars in the park.  We would spend time camping in various locations studying the nature of the park - exploring its canyons and plant communities.  The courses presented a truly exhaustive view of the ecology of the park.  I had a blast sharing my passion for this special place. 

As well as leading field seminars in the park, I have traveled there many times on my own and with my family.  Som has only had a short day trip to the park but I am working on changing this in the very near future!  Cokie has yet to see Death Valley and that too will be fixed.

The ecosystem and plant communities of Death Valley are diverse and impressive.  The Geology is awesome as well.  Take a look at the images below that show a little of what I have experienced here.


Please take a look at our North America Image Galleries!

Death Valley Landscapes Image Gallery


Here are some more images of Death Valley:




A grand view of the Panamint Range from the Artemisia scrub community.  Telescope Peak can be seen in this view as well.



The amazing color array of Artist's Pallet.  The various minerals create the colors of this magnificent sight in Deat Valley.  One of these days I must get there when the light is a bit more ideal.



A spectacular Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris) in bloom in the back country of Death Valley.



At higher elevations, the plant communities are dramatically different.  One of the indicator species of the higher elevations of the Panamints is the Curl Leaf Mountain Mahogany (Cerocarpus ledifolius).




The spectacular dunes of Death Valley.



A Cottontop Cactus (Echinocactus polycephalus) in fruit near Darwin Falls.



Echinocereus triglochidiatus var. mojavensis is one of my favorite cactus species when it is in bloom.




The Desert Five Spot (Eremalche rotundifolia) is a spectacular flower species found commonly in the spring bloom of Death Valley.




Flat-top Eriogonum is a wonderful buckwheat found along the roadsides of Death Valley.



A fossilized ash mountain along the Titus Canyon scenic drive.  I loved the geology lectures along this route!



Golden carpet bloom in the Creosote (Larrea divaricata) community on the east side of the valley.





Panamint Daisies are found only in certain canyons of the western Panamints.



The east side of the Panamints have Limber Pine and Bristlecone Pine Communities that provided lots to show students regarding transitions and the impacts of abiotic factors.



Limber Pines (Pinus flexilis) are common in the higher elevations of the Panamints.



A beautful sunrise from Death Valley Lodge.




Taking students in to Titus Canyon took them on a trip back through geologic time.




The best views were always on top of the vans!



At the conclusion of most of the Death Valley trips, we would generally drive up the White Mountains and see what used to be the world's oldest living things (that was until they discovered apens, fungi, creosote bushes and other things that may in fact be thousands of years older....), the Bristlecone Pines (Pinus aristata).




Pinus aristata



One of our favorite pastimes was to turn rocks and logs looking for critters like this Scorpion.




My favorite lecture of all times to deliver was the one on "Evolution and Speciation through Geographic Isolation" which generally took place in Devil's Hole or Death Valley's Salt Creek during which we all sat around these beautiful Cyprinidon species Desert Pupfish discussing how all 13 or so extant species evolved from one species that existed in the great lake Manly about 20,000 years ago.  These usually generated at least a couple hours of great discussion. This image is of the Ash Meadows Amargosa Pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis mionectes), one of the more easily seen of the extant pupfish species.



Although Chukars are introduced, they are still a beautiful bird to see strolling the sides of the mountains in Death Valley.