Zabriskie Point of Death Valley

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

For avid landscape photographers like myself, Death Valley National Park is a must-see destination. Among the numerous geological wonders in the park are the salt flats at Badwater Basin (the lowest point in North America), the stunning sand dunes of Mesquite Flat, the multi-colored sandstone canyons at Artists Palette and the bizarre, crusted salt formations at Devil’s Golf Course.

But probably the most iconic and spectacular spot in Death Valley is the view overlooking the Golden Canyon from Zabriskie Point.

The photo above shows the barren, out-of-this-world beauty of Zabriskie Point taken on my trip there in December 2016. The colorful sunrise and diffuse light provide an excellent backdrop to the finely-sculpted badlands. For a more close-up perspective take a hike on the Badlands Loop, where visitors are treated to a multitude of amazing rock formations and impressive gulches.

Death Valley National Park in California is known for its erosional scenery. As part of the Amargosa Range, Zabriskie Point stretches over eastern portion of Death Valley. It is composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Paleolake, which dried up about five million years ago – long before Death Valley came into existence. The location was named after Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, vice president and general manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company in the early 20th century, which had its mining operations in Death Valley.

Millions of years before the actual subsidence and extension of Death Valley and the existence of Lake Manly, another lake covered a large part of Death Valley. This paleolake was formed about nine million years ago. During several million years of its history, saline muds, gravels from nearby highlands and ash falls from the then-active Black Mountain volcanic field were accumulated at the lake bottom. These interbedding sediments were developed in what is known today as the Furnace Creek Formation. The borates were concentrated in these Furnace Creek lakebeds from hot spring waters and altered rhyolite from nearby volcanic fields. The Formation, made up of over 5,000 feet (1500 m) of mudstone, siltstone and conglomerate, created one the most enigmatic landscapes in the United States.

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