Death Valley Finale: Artist’s Drive, Artist’s Palette, Zabriskie Point


DSC01631Located about nine miles south of Furnace Creek on Badwater Road, Artist’s Drive is famous for it’s multi-hued sedimentary and volcanic hills and draws showing the fierce erosion of the valley’s summer thunderstorms.

The well paved road is 9 miles long and one-way with frequent turn-offs for viewing and photography but is limited to vehicles less than 25 feet long.

DSC01632I drove this loop in early afternoon and was not very impressed after Golden Canyon and Red Cathedral so I drove it again at sunset and you should too.




An interesting geological feature of Artist’s Drive is the clipping of the ‘toes’ of each alluvial fan by a tectonic fault that runs in an almost straight line parallel to the highway-though it’s most visible in aerial shots.


DSC01634Artist’s Palette is a turn-off with parking and a chemical toilet near the end of Artist’s Drive that is cut into the Black Mountains and famous for its colors.


DSC01652Oxidized metals have turned the clay and sediments to different hues, for example  the yellow, pink and red is from iron salts, the green from mica, and manganese produces purple. Again, you’ll want to visit at sunset for the deepest colors.



DSC01662Zabriskie Point is an elevated viewing point of eroded draws and mud hills in the Black Mountains just east of Death Valley made famous for one scene from the 1970 Antonioni movie of the same name.

Since the point is closed for repair I hiked from Golden Canyon to Gower Gulch and to within about a mile of the point before giving up. The hike is strenuous in some points so you’ll want shoes with more grip than my worn Oregon hipster shoes provide. If hiking the gullies and draws bring water and tell someone where you are going before leaving so they can find your body.



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