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Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park

CAlIFORNIA, NOV 22,(UITV): Death Valley National Park has some of the oldest visible rocks on earth. The earliest of these found more than 1.2 billion years ago. Collected of limestone, these rocks give us an idea of what the land looked like. Limestone is formed by the shells and bones of sea creatures. They sink to the bottom and compress into rock over time. This tells us that 1.2 billion years ago, the land we know as Death Valley was actually a shallow sea. The discovery of fossils provides further evidence. Stromatolites are some of the earliest forms of life on the planet and they have left their imprints on the rocks – preserved by the now arid environment.

Around 100 million years ago the earth’s crust started shifting and the oceanic plate began sinking under the North American plate. This caused the ground to rise and the friction forced hot magma up through the earth’s crust creating volcanoes and chasing away the shallow sea. We see dramatic evidence of this volcanic history at Ubehebe Crater.

As faulting and tectonic shifting continued, the mountains rose and the valley began to sink. This process continues today. The valley, still sinking, is continually filled in by sediment washing down from the surrounding mountains.

10,000 years ago the glaciers which had covered much of North America began to melt and recede. They left behind a large freshwater lake, known as Lake Manly. At its height, Lake Manly was 80 miles long and 800 feet deep! As the climate continued to warm, Lake Manly evaporated, leaving behind the valley floor and salt flats we see today (and lending some credibility to the Queen of Death Valley legend).

The result of this long and complicated process is the spectacular scenery that now makes up Death Valley National Park.