Stovepipe Dunes, Death Valley NP, California

Death Valley National Park is located in eastern California about 75 miles north of a city called Barstow. Death Valley was established as a national park in 1933. Not only will you find Telescope Peak that reaches an altitude of over 11,000 feet, you will also find the lowest point in the western hemisphere at Badwater. Badwater is located 282 feet below sea level. The valley is an example of extremes. Plants and animals have learned to live in the dry and hot conditions while the geologic features result from the action of faulting, volcanoes, and an ancient sea.

Stovepipe Dunes shows the difficult terrain for organism survival. With the exception of a few bushes, there is no cover during the super-hot summer months. Most of the creatures throughout the valley are nocturnal, feeding and taking care of business during the cooler night hours. As the surface heats up during the day, they are sleeping underground or under patches of vegetation. If lucky, Death Valley sees winter rains that allow for a rebirth of wildflowers every spring.

While you may think of dune ecosystems near beaches, there are also large dune formations inland that are created by similar environmental factors. It's all about collecting large amounts of sand in one location. In this example, winds carry sand from around the valley. The winds aren't strong enough to carry sand over the mountains, so it collects. The stovepipe Dunes are constantly shifting and moving, but remain in the same location when compared to the valley. The footprints you see in this panorama were probably gone by the next day. Dunes of this size take hundreds of years to develop. Once the dunes are in a stable location, small plants and animals begin to colonize the area.

Image Credit: Andrew Rader Studios

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- NPS: National Park Service Home Page
- NPS: Death Valley National Park

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