Publication date: September 2013
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Death Valley National Park
The first comprehensive study of the park, past and present, Death Valley National Park probes the environmental and human history of this most astonishing desert. Established as a national monument in 1933, Death Valley was an anomaly within the national park system. Though many who knew this landscape were convinced that its stark beauty should be preserved, to do so required a reconceptualization of what a park consists of, grassroots and national support for its creation, and a long and difficult political struggle to secure congressional sanction.
This history begins with a discussion of the physical setting, its geography and geology, and descriptions of the Timbisha, the first peoples to inhabit this tough and dangerous landscape. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, new arrivals came to exploit the mineral resources in the region and develop permanent agricultural and resort settlements. Although Death Valley was established as a national monument in 1933, fear of the harsh desert precluded widespread acceptance by both the visiting public and its own administrative agency. As a result, Death Valley lacked both support and resources. This volume details the many debates over the parks size; conflicts between miners, farmers, the military, and wilderness advocates; the treatment of the Timbisha; and the impact of tourists on its cultural and natural resources.
In time, Death Valley came to be seen as one of the great natural wonders of the United States and was elevated to full national park status in 1994. The history of Death Valley National Park embodies the many tensions confronting American environmentalism.
Death Valley is truly one of our great national treasures. Rothman and Miller offer a compelling account of the people who inhabited and shaped the history of this remarkable landscape. Senator Dianne Feinstein
"Hal K. Rothman and Char Miller are long-established heroes of U.S. environmental history. Therefore, their co-authoring Death Valley National Park is cause for celebration. Never before has this iconic landscape been examined with such judicious love and respect. Their prose sparkles and their research is impeccable. Highly recommended!" Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University, history commentator for CBS News, and author of The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America
"A compact yet well-researched history by noted UNLV history professor Rothman and Pomona College environmental professor Miller. . . . Death Valley needs all the friends it can get, and Rothman and Miller are good ones. Its enough to make me want to gas up the Subaru and make a trip to Panamint Springs. Ill add their book to my shovel and spare tire because its also a useful tool. Death Valley National Park is destined to become dog-eared and reread, the fine dust of the mystical desert place itself sprinkling its pages." John L. Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal