Death Valley National Park: Part 3
The area of the park known as Furnace Creek (mentioned in the last post) makes an excellent home base for visiting many of the park’s more popular destinations. It also includes several lodging facilities, four restaurants and houses the park’s Visitor Center. Two nearby locations that make for great photography, and each less than a ten minute drive from Furnace Creek, include Artist Palette and Twenty Mule Team Canyon.
Artist’s Palette/Artist Drive
Artist Drive is a nine-mile (14.5 km) long, one way road into a canyon filled with vibrantly colored volcanic and sedimentary rock. Because of the height and position of the surrounding cliffs, afternoon photography works best here. Along the early part of the drive there are striking cliffs, bluffs and hills.
At about the half-way point on the road is a parking lot that leads to one of the most popular sights in the park called Artist’s Palette. And, it is appropriately named because of its vibrantly colored rocks, many in green, gold and pink created from mineral deposits in volcanos that erupted millions of years ago.
There are many locations on or near the parking lot where it’s easy to photograph Artists Palette. After several visits here I found a trail that leads from the parking area into the nearby canyon which offered even easier access to the rocks and better perspectives for photographing. At the end of Artist’s Drive where it joins the main road is a small hill topped with large volcanic rocks which can make interesting foreground subjects to include in photos of the valley and distant mountain ranges.
[PHOTO TIP: Using a polarizing filter on your camera, if you have one, can reduce glare and help bring out more of the saturated colors in the rocks.]
Twenty Mule Team Canyon
Another short drive from Furnace Creek is an area called Twenty Mule Team Canyon. In the late 1880’s and long before death valley was a national park, this area was (and still is today) the site of numerous borax mines. Borax is a white mineral used as an antiseptic and in the making of glass and ceramics. When ground into fine crystals, borax dissolves easily in water is widely used in soaps and laundry detergents.
Twenty Mule Team Canyon is an unpaved, one-way road roughly 2.5 miles (4 km) long that leads through a canyon of gracefully shaped multicolored badlands. While the road can be driven with a standard automobile it includes some twists and turns that need to be navigated slowly and with caution.
The drive takes you over gentle hills and through gullies and sandy washes. Along the way are several parking areas where you can leave your car and hike to view the effects of wind/rain erosion on rocks and encounter the sites of old borax mines.