Death Valley was first inhabited by the Timbisha tribe with villages located in different areas of the Valley. One Timbisha village called the Valley maahunu, hunu meaning canyon. Another called it tumpisa or rock paint, so named for the red ochre paint that was made from a particular local clay.
One group of miners during the 1849 California Gold Rush dubbed the searing, waterless landscape “Death Valley” upon finally finding a pass through the Panamint mountains and reaching western California. Looking back on the valley, they recalled the members of their party who had died, the bony oxen they had been forced to kill and eat when all other provisions were gone, and the wagons and goods they had been forced to abandon. On the heels of the Gold Rush, silver and gold were discovered in the Valley in the 1850s and borax discovered in the 1880s. Mule-drawn wagons and fortune seekers flooded the Valley to extract these precious resources. In 1933, President Hoover declared Death Valley under federal protection as Death Valley National Monument. In 1994, it was redesignated Death Valley National Park and expanded to his current size of three million acres.
Today, Death Valley draws a new type of explorer, those who view Death Valley’s scenic vistas, canyons, mountains and dunes as the most precious of resources and a gift of natural wonder to the world.
For more information on the history of Death Valley, visit: http://www.nps.gov/deva/historyculture/index.htm or book your room at Stovepipe Wells Village, a beautiful Death Valley hotel, to learn more about it in person.