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Growing Up Dry

This is the Death Valley desert. Life here struggles for water and shrinks from salt.

Rain and snow on the highest peaks of the Panamints yield
enough water for bristlecone pine and limber pine to grow.

A little lower are pinyon pine and juniper

The hotter drier middle slopes support shrubs such as black brush,
Mormon tea, and sagebrush. This is the zone you're standing in.

Floods from the mountains sink into the gravel fans. Plants with
long or spreading roots, such as creosotebush, find water here. As
in the higher areas, seeds sprout here after a rain; wildflowers
sprout, bloom and die in a week or two.

At the edge of the fans, fresh water pushes away the salt and
nourishes stands of mesquite.

Farther down the water gets brackish - pickleweed country.

On the Valley floor muddy grays, tans, and buffs grade into white
beds of almost pure salt. This is the chemical desert and in a few
days a living thing out there would be embalmed like salt cod -
preserved forever and thoroughly dead.

Don't miss the rest of our virtual tour of Death Valley National Park in 6318 images.