Last Updated on January 21, 2024

Located inside the vast expanse of the Mojave Desert in eastern California, Death Valley stands as a captivating testament to extremes. Renowned as the hottest and driest national park in the United States, these 3.4 million acres of arid wilderness contain surreal landscape shaped by salt flats, towering sand dunes, and rugged mountain ranges.

With temperatures that can soar well above 120-degrees Fahrenheit, Death Valley presents a harsh and unforgiving environment, yet it captivates visitors with its stark beauty and unique geological features. From the otherworldly Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, to the mesmerizing Artist’s Palette, where vibrant mineral deposits paint the hills in a kaleidoscope of colors, Death Valley is a captivating mosaic of nature’s resilience.

And yet, in one of the hottest, driest places in the entire Western Hemisphere, where an already surprising variety and plant life has adapted to desert survival, a massive saltwater oasis has appeared.

Named Lake Manly in honor of W. L. Manly who led and heroically rescued the first party of white emigrants who entered Death Valley in 1849, the lake stretches across the floor of the valley.

But it won’t be there long and the last time it appeared was in 2005. Lake Manly is back after a rare significant rainfall in 2023. 

The time is now to see it as most of the major roads into Death Valley are open (like California Route 190) with access to all the major park attractions like Zabriskie Point, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Ubehebe Crater, Artists Drive, Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Trails and Racetrack Road, just to name a few. Winter temperatures are also conducive to a visit with daytime highs ranging from 65 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

Death Valley Salt Flats
Death Valley Salt Flats.

Interestingly, the floor of Death Valley was part of a vast lake system during North America’s last major Ice Age. As the lakes vanished over 100,000 years ago, massive salt deposits were left behind creating the floor of the valley.  Many visitors don’t even realize that there is also a vast aquifer system underneath Death Valley, a true American oasis.

Ancient waters bubble up from the ground to support an entire ecosystem at the Oasis at Death Valley, a secluded resort off of CA 190 tucked into the 3.4-million-acre Death Valley National Park (the largest park in the Lower 48).

This winter vacation destination offers spring-fed pools averaging a comfortable 87 degrees, the lowest elevation USGA golf course on earth, cascading bougainvillea-adorned gardens, and a picturesque spring-watered date palm grove.

Dating to 1927, the historic property encompasses two lodging options, The Inn at Death Valley and the family-friendly The Ranch at Death Valley, both part of a recent $250 million renaissance and both located at Furnace Creek inside the national park.

Located only two hours from Las Vegas and four hours from Los Angeles, Death Valley is an easy escape from the worried, rushing world. And more than worth the trip to see this intriguing geological natural wonder.


  • Noreen Kompanik

    Noreen Kompanik is a retired registered nurse, legal nurse consultant and military spouse turned travel writer. She launched her travel writing career in 2014 and has over 1,000 published articles in a variety of digital and print publications.