Death Valley Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

Death Valley is a place of many extremes, making it a unique destination. Some facts about Death Valley may surprise you! Join us as we explore nature's hottest spot.

The Hottest Vacation Ever

Many people enjoy a relaxing, warm-weather vacation. But how about visiting a place where the temperature is 120 degrees for days? This place also has features called the Funeral Mountains, Furnace Creek and Devil's Golf Course. Sound appealing? This is no ordinary warm weather spot; this is Death Valley! Named by a group of wandering gold prospectors, this place boasts the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth. Join us as we explore Earth's natural oven known as Death Valley.

Where is Death Valley?

Death Valley is in the southeastern part of California, near the Nevada border. It is a long valley, 130 miles, but only 12 miles wide. Did you know that this valley includes the largest national park in the lower 48 states? With rugged mountain peaks, scrubby, rocky ground, smooth sand dunes and natural salt flats, it's truly unique.

The diverse geology of Death valley includes sand dunes as well as mountain peaks.
death valley mountains and dunes

What is the Climate of Death Valley?

Ever heard someone say it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk? You could certainly fry one in Death Valley. It is home to the world record high temperature of 134 degrees F. The hottest land temperature here was recorded in 1972, at 201 degrees. This extreme heat occurs because the long, deep valley is bordered by steep mountains. Heat simply radiates out and becomes trapped, creating an oven-like effect.

Not only is Death Valley extremely hot, but it's dry as dust. Death Valley receives an average of 2 inches of rain...per year! Places like Seattle can get more rain in an hour. Why is rain so scarce in that area? Death Valley lies in what is known as a rain shadow. As moisture-heavy clouds move in from the Pacific Ocean, they rise to pass over several mountain ranges. The air cools, and moisture drops as rain. By the time the clouds reach Death Valley, they are like a wrung-out shirt - almost dry.

Rain shadow effect
rain shadow

Who Lives in Death Valley?

As you might guess, there aren't a whole lot of people who choose to make their permanent home in a virtual oven. But despite its name, Death Valley does have a population of around 263, as well as plenty of visitors who brave the elements at the national park each year. In addition, a number of tough and hardy plants and animals make their home here.

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