Zabriskie Point was the first major stop on my trip to Death Valley National Park. I arrived just as the sun was getting high enough to allow for strong sky poralization, though just a little too late to capture the longest early morning shadows. I’d love to return some day at sunset to shoot the golds and oranges of the hillsides.
Zabriskie Point is comprised of a small part of the Amargosa Range, a series of small eroded mountains. A dry river bed runs through the center of the area, offering some great potential hikes if you’re there during the right time of year. In the summer heat, this spot would probably be too hot to bother with.
Death Valley’s original industry was in Borax mining, and Zabriskie Point was named for the vice-president and manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company- Christian Brevoort Zabriskie. A small sign at the lookout spot commemorates his company’s achievements.
Zabriskie Point has captured the public’s fascination and even been featured in popular culture. In 1970 an Italian director used the location for his film – Zabriskie Point – featuring a soundtrack with offerings from some of the biggest names in rock music: Pink Floyd, Jerry Garcia & The Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones.
The fin-shaped mountain formation in the shot above is called the “Manley Beacon”, as is perhaps the most recognizable feature of the surrounding landscape. It was named after William L. Manly, who helped some miners escape certain death by leading them to safety way back in 1849. The early morning and late afternoon sun create a complex and absolutely fascinating network of shadows on its severely eroded hillsides.
I wish I had taken the time to explore the area a little further, but we were only in the Park for three days, and had quite a few more destinations to visit. I’d certainly have liked to walk the dry riverbed, and taken a closer look at the interesting colors on the much darker mountains in the background of this shot.
When I first shot these photos, I figured that the dark gray area could have been an ancient lava flow, but after reading up on the spot at Wikipedia, I think I was a little off. Apparently the tops of the dark mountains on the left of my shots are made of dried lava that erupted nearly five million years ago, but the floor of the valley is something entirely different.
Either way, this is a beautiful spot, and one that should be visited during any trip to Death Valley. It’s conveniently situated about half-way between the Mesquite Sand Dunes and Dante’s View, so make sure to stop by when you’re in the Park!