Death Valley – Kellen Gunderson

Kellen Gunderson on Death Valley. Kellen (website) is a PhD Candidate at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, United States. He is a tectonic geomorphologist currently working on spatial and temporal scales of fault slip rate variability in the Northern Apennines, Italy.
Death Valley (part 1)

To most people Death valley seems desolate. Its true that this inhospitable area is a difficult place for any life form to eke out a living, but geologists see anything but desolation. To a geologist, Death Valley is a place of incredible energy. It is a place where active natural processes are laid to bare and impossible to miss.

Death Valley is an extensional basin formed at the western edge of the Basin and Range province in California. The amount of extension that has occurred here is immense and it is visible by the over 9000′ of relief present between the valley floor and the adjacent mountain ranges. 
The mountain seen here is the footwall of one of the famous Death Valley metamorphic core complexes. This is a fault zone that was began in the middle crust and has now been exhumed due to Basin and Range extension. The alluvial fans emptying the mountains are filling Death Valley as extension continues. 
Badwater Basin is the lowest place on North America. Its also a nice place to enjoy an apple.
If you are lucky, you find a place where the hanging wall and footwall of the core complex are both still present. 
Beautiful desolation. These badlands are made up of Miocene deposits that filled Death Valley during the early stages of extension.
This is one of the famous sailing stones at Racetrack Playa. These rocks move across the playa, as evidenced by the tracks they leave in their wake. Its still a mystery how they move. We paid for trip to Racetrack Playa with 15 total tires changes on 3 different vehicles.

Thanks to Kellen for this post. As Death Valley is an incredibly geologically diverse area, I am sure we will return to this place.

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