10 Ridiculously Cool Things That You Didn’t Know About Death Valley

Cold? If yes, sorry to hear that, but it seems like a perfect time to read about the hottest place in the country. While Austin Adventures has been traveling to Antarctica for some time now, in three short months, it will celebrate the departure of its inaugural trip to California’s Death Valley.

This national park is known for its superlatives (hottest, lowest, driest, etc.) but you may also be surprised to find out that you can play a round of golf at the aptly-named Furnace Creek. See below for some surprising facts about the area…

Death Valley Badwater Sign

1. 20 Years of Till Death Do Us Part! In 1994, Congress made this section of the Mojave Desert a national park.

2. Largest in the Lower 48. Measuring in at a whopping more than 3.4 million acres, Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous U.S.

3. Record-Holder for More Than 100 Years. The highest recorded temperature in Death Valley is 134 degrees Fahrenheit which was measured in July, 1913 and is the highest recorded temperature in the Western Hemisphere.

4. A Year Without Rain. Death Valley is the driest place in the country. In 1929, not a single drop of rain was recorded.

Death Valley Dunes Sunset 2 5. How Low (on land) Can You Go? Death Valley is home to the country’s lowest point, Badwater Basin, which lies at 282 feet below sea level.

6. Notable Neighbor. Death Valley is only 80 miles from the highest point in the country, Mount Whitney, which tops out at an elevation of 14,505 feet. In other words, the lowest and highest points in the contiguous U.S. are less than 100 miles apart!

7. Lots of Life. Death Valley is home to more than 1000 species of plants (including 50 that are found nowhere else in the world), 300 species of birds, 51 species of mammals (including bighorn sheep and mountain lions), 36 species of reptiles and a handful of amphibian and fish species.

Scenic view of Death Valley sand dunes and mountains. 8. Humans Call it Home. Archaeologists have found evidence of human presence in Death Valley that dates back at least 9,000 years! The Timbisha Shoshone Native American Tribe has inhabited Death Valley for the past 1,000 years.

9. Golfers are Welcome! The Furnace Creek Golf Course at 214 feet below sea level is the world’s lowest golf course and golfers can play 18 holes year round (although the game is less popular in the height of summer).

10. February is Just Fine! The average high temperature in February is 72 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low is 46 degrees Fahrenheit – a perfect range for an active adventure vacation! February is also typically the wettest month. On average, it sees .51 inches of rainfall.

Austin Adventures’ first Death Valley adventure vacation  departs on February 15, 2015!

~ By Katie Jackson on behalf of Austin Adventures

Cruise Ships and Naturalists Conserve the Galapagos Islands

Often times, once a destination gains popularity, tour companies and travelers pour in from around the world, threatening the sanctity of the place. Finding a balance between allowing for outside visitors and not destroying the natural habitats, can be a challenging feat. It was however, humbling to see the extent of preservation initiatives in the Galapagos National Parks of Ecuador during my recent visit.

First, I found that tour operators must pay a significant license fee to the park to obtain permits. These can range from $25-100k, depending on how many guests the tour agency plans to bring per year and how much they charge per person. Once the National Park gives permissions to visit the Galapagos Islands, they assign itineraries that must be strictly followed. This means that the tour companies are told which routes to take, which islands they can visit at what times of day, how long to spend there, etc. By doing so the Park ensures that visitors don’t constantly walk around in the same areas and disturb the wildlife each and every day. It also means that tour operators cannot travel the same route two consecutive weeks and have to offer different programs to their clients.

cruise ships in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador

Visiting Galapagos Islands by small to medium size cruise ships is very popular. Private boats can be arranged for 10+ passengers, while most vessels are designed for 16. There are also a few ships that take 100 passengers at a time. Unlike other cruise docks, the ships and boats in the Galapagos are only allowed to anchor themselves far from land. Most islands do not have a port, so transfers have to be made via water landing. Even the islands that have small ports, such as San Cristobal and  Santa Cruz, allow only fishing boats to be parked near the docks. When travelers get out for day excursions, they have to transfer from the cruise boat to land via panga (dinghies). Even when going kayaking and snorkeling, they have to jump off the panga at the sites. As a result, you could see sea lions, iguanas and pelicans welcoming visitors at every island. It seems they did not feel threatens by humans, as the boats here do not produce loud noises or oil spills.

panga used for water landing in the Galapagos Islands

Thirdly, naturalists who work for the park accompanied the tourists throughout their tours. It is required by the Park to have at least 1 naturalist for every 16 passengers, although companies like Ecoventura organize 2. They not only educate visitors about the flora, fauna and history of the Galapagos, but also act as eyes and ears of the park. They made sure that the humans did not touch the animals, walked off the trails or wandered on their own. The naturalists were required to report any hazards seen on the islands to the park authorities.

sea lions resting on the beach in Galapagos Islands

While most islands in the Galapagos looked pristinely beautiful with white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters, water currants would occasionally bring debris on to shore. It was good to see that the naturalists made sure to collect any garbage they saw. They even asked the passengers to collect it during our excursion and took it back to the boat for proper disposal.

naturalist pick up trash from the Galapagos IslandRead more about the sustainability efforts of the Ecuador based cruise ship company, Ecoventura.

Read more about our experiences with the Galapagos Sea Lions.

Outdoor Knoxville

The Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center was launched this weekend and is yet another example of how community service can be combined with fun and recreation. Legacy Parks Foundation, a Knoxville-based non-profit that focuses on expanding parks, open space and recreational opportunities, in partnership with River Sports Outfitters has opened the recreation center in the city owned Gateway Pavilion Building at Volunteer Landing.

Legacy Parks Foundation has been actively working to make East Tennessee a recreational destination of the Southeast. They created a 1,000-acre urban wilderness and recreational corridor stretching along the Tennessee River’s south shore, from the Forks of the River Wildlife Management Area to Alcoa Highway. This corridor runs parallel and connects to the greenways along the north side of the river. The main focus is to create opportunities for recreation in beautiful natural settings just minutes from downtown. When people don’t have to drive miles out of town to go hiking, boating or biking, they would be more likely to get outdoors and stay fit. With rentals, branded equipment, education classes and outdoor related events, the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center makes recreation convenient and fun for the entire family.

Another initiative of the center, Outdoor KnoxFest is a three-day event, Aug. 24 -26, that promotes a variety of outdoor recreational venues and opportunities throughout Asheville, Atlanta and Nashville and encourages people of all levels of experience to participate. The events will include all-day adventure race, bike ride, mountain bike, tail run, boat rentals, climbing wall, films and speakers.

During the past five years Legacy Parks Foundation has raised more than $3 million for parks, greenways and recreational venues, added more than 200 acres of parkland to Knox County and helped protect nearly 1,000 acres of farm and forest land in East Tennessee. For a comprehensive interactive portal to all outdoor recreational activities, venues, and events in the area, visit www.OutdoorKnoxville.com