Manly Beacon as seen from Zabriskie Point in the Badlands area of the park. Photos courtesy Death Valley National Park
In honor of Martin Luther King Day on Monday, Jan. 20, the National Park Service is waiving entrance fees to its parks and encouraging the public to take advantage of the recreational opportunities available.
The staff at Death Valley National Park welcomes visitors to partake of warm temperatures and sunny skies while they explore popular attractions such as the Badlands and Artistâ€™s Drive.
The latter is famous for its multi-colored claystones from ancient ashfalls, which creates a tapestry of browns, grays and brilliant turquoise woven into the desert landscape.
The former are formed out of colorful clay and mudstone, stretching for miles towards the horizon in layers of bizarre rock formations. The Badlands can be seen at Zabriskie Point, Twenty Mule Team Canyon and Golden Canyon â€“ all spots worth checking out themselves.
Temperatures have been ranging from the high 60s to mid-70s, ideal weather for outdoor exploration in Death Valley.
Death Valley National Park concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts additionally suggests the following three, no-cost activities:
â€¢ Wish on a star. Stargazing is a simple, free, safe and inspirational activity for the whole family. Because there is already minimal exterior lighting surrounding the lodges in most national parks, guests need only walk a few steps away from them to observe the night sky in relative quiet. Recently recognized by the International Dark Sky Association and among the darkest of the national parks, Californiaâ€™s Death Valley National Park features some of the finest stargazing this side of Mars.
â€¢ Go low. At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is one of the lowest places in the world. The vast salt flats are typically bone-dry but can turn into a ready-made lake after a big rainstorm. Look up at a mountainside sign marking sea level posted well above the Badwater Basin viewpoint. No, up a little higher. Feeling small yet?
â€¢ Discover borax. Xanterraâ€™s interesting and slightly quirky Borax Museum at the family-friendly Ranch at Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park shows how a simple chemical was largely responsible for the fortunes and misfortunes of many a miner, and how it was responsible for bringing tourism to this California desert. Many ancient mining tools, antique stagecoaches and even a steam locomotive are on display.
Other fee-free days for national parks in 2014 include: Feb. 15-17 for Presidentsâ€™ Day weekend; April 19-20 in honor of National Park Weekâ€™s opening weekend; Aug. 25 for the National Park Serviceâ€™s birthday; Sept. 27 in observance of National Public Lands Day; and Nov. 11 for Veterans Day Weekend.
For more information about Death Valley National Park and its myriad attractions, call (760) 786-3200 or see http://nps.gov/deva.