I stumbled on a really great blog on places in and around Death Valley by a guy named Steve Hall, aptly named “Death Valley Adventures”. His blog is particularly great because there are few maps and/or information on most of the area surrounding Death Valley. It encouraged me to do a little exploring on my own. I decided to drive home from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on the Fourth of July through the Searles Valley, Panamint Valley, Death Valley to Furnace Creek Inn and then on home. These valleys are between the Argus, Slate, and Panamint Ranges which are oriented north-south, or toward the north-northwest. The El Paso Mountains, Spangler Hills, Straw Peak in the Slate Range, and Quail Mountains are oriented east-west, and the Owlshead Mountains are arranged in a semi-circular pattern south of the valleys. Aside from the geology, there are some interesting places to see along this little drive and of course some of our beautiful desert flora. Admittedly it extended the trip home by a few hours but the scenery was worth the lost time.
For many years I have heard of a miracle in the desert, Darwin Falls, a spring-fed waterfall flows year-round in a narrow gorge in the driest place on earth, Death Valley. This year I decided to visit. Its lush streamside thickets of willows ring with the song of migrating birds in springtime. The falls are located just west of Panamint Springs via a 2.5 mile unpaved road. Although there is no formal trail, the mostly level, two mile walk to the falls involves rock scrambling and several stream crossings. Darwin Creek is one of the four perennial streams in three million-acre (12,000 km²) Death Valley National Park. Darwin Falls and Creek are fed by the Darwin Wash, which is in turn fed by the volcanic tableland of the Darwin Bench between the Inyo Mountains and the Argus Range. The small, narrow valley where the creek and falls are located features a rare collection of greenery in the vast desert and is home to indigenous fauna such as quail. Darwin Falls, the Darwin Falls Wilderness, the nearby town of Darwin, California, and all other areas named “Darwin” in the vicinity are named after Dr. Darwin French (1822–1902), a local rancher, miner, and explorer.
In the spring, the desert around Las Vegas can erupt with a riot of colors and forms during the wildflower bloom. Every spring brings at least a few flowers, but in a good year, the desert can be carpeted with flowers. Good and bad years depend on rain, and the best flowers occur during years when there was several inches of rain during the preceding fall. It is always worth getting outdoors during March and April to take a look, but in years when there was good rain during October and November, don't miss it. When visiting the desert it is not often the quantity of blooms, but more often the quality. You might have to look a little closer, walk a little more and look among the rocks to find the treasures but I can promise you it will be worth the effort. This year I decided to focus on the Valley of Fire; these are a few of my finds. I hope you enjoy.