This is the history of Death Valley, where that bitter stream the Amargosa dies. It embraces the whole basin of the Amargosa from the Panamints to the Spring Mountains, from the Palmettos to the Avawatz. And it spans a century from the earliest recollections and the oldest records to that day in 1933 when much of the valley was finally set aside as a National Monument. This is the story of an illusory land, of the people it attracted and of the dreams and delusions they pursued-the story of the metals in its mountains and the salts in its sinks, of its desiccating heat and its revitalizing springs, and of all the riches of its scenery and lore-the story of Indians and horse thieves, lost argonauts and lost mine hunters, prospectors and promoters, miners and millionaires, stockholders and stock sharps, homesteaders and hermits, writers and tourists. But mostly this is the story of the illusions-the illusions of a shortcut to the gold diggings that lured the forty-niners, of inescapable deadliness that hung in the name they left behind, of lost bonanzas that grew out of the few nuggets they found, of immeasurable riches spread by hopeful prospectors and calculating con men, and of impenetrable mysteries concocted by the likes of Scotty. These and many lesser illusions are the heart of its history.
Richard E. Lingenfelter is a research physicist at the University of California, San Diego. He has written over a dozen books on Western American history and lore.
"A definitive piece of Western history . . . thorough, judicious and consistently entertaining."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times "Death Valley is a wilderness of extremes--the lowest, the driest, the hottest--and not surprisingly, its human history representes one more extreme, a bumptious, sleazy, hilarious Wild West Show of horse raiders, swindlers, drunks, explorers, prospectors, madmen and other such types as blast about from one outermost fringe to another."--Mark Muro, The Boston Globe
Finalist Spur Award nominee in the Best Western Nonfiction Book category, Western Writers of America, Inc