Saline Valley ~ Death Valley National Park
Creosote (Larrea tridentata) is the most dominant shrub of the valley floor — and possibly the most successful shrub in the deserts of North America. The species covers 149 million square miles, ranges in elevation from -235 to 5,000 feet, can live at a density of over 350 plants per acre, and some argue that this species may live as long as 11,000 years (Pavlik 2008). One adaptation to survive in these harsh desert conidtions is its small leaves, which grow at angles that minimize direct contact with the sun's rays.
Creosote and desert holly typify the flora that is likely to be found on the valley floor. The Inyo Mountains are in the background.
Creosote was in flower on our December visit.
Desert holly (Atriplex hymenelytra) is a common associate of the creosote, and also a common shrub in Saline Valley. This species survives in harsh desert conditions by having angled, light colored leaves.
Desert holly in bloom.
Saline Valley has a long history. The Timbisha Shoshone inhabited the area until the late 1800's when the mineral rich region enticed prospectors into an isolated existence — mining silver, gold, borax and, even salt. Now, the main attractions are hot springs and isolation. There are a series of 3 springs spread out over several miles in the southeast corner of the valley. They are very popular with desert rats — colorful stories are the norm while soaking in the tub. The most infamous visitor to the springs was Charles Manson, who spent time in the valley in the 60's before being caught further south in the park.
Sunrise on the Inyos towers over the lower springs — decorated by introduced California fan palms (Washingtonia filifera)
More Pictures of the Saline Valley
Pavlik, Bruce 2008. The California Desert. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA