Saturday, October 5, 2019
It was lunchtime when we pulled into Furnace Creek, the main development inside Death Valley National Park.
Wanting to eat in a restaurant, we looked for the most audacious hotel entrance we could find. That would be the entrance above. Through the double doors and into the lobby, the hotel desk was on the right. “Is there a restaurant around here?” I asked. “Yes, next door.” pointed the desk clerk. “Do you have a map of the property?” The clerk handed me a welcome sheet including a map and other information.
We found the parking lot behind the building housing the General Store, Restaurant and Bar. Then we walked toward the front of the building to find the restaurant entrance.
It was just after 11:00 AM. It took us a moment to get waitstaff attention. They serve a buffet. Sit anywhere. The buffet was expensive but we did it anyway. Even though it was early and we were the first ones there for lunch, all the food was out and available to patrons.
The food was excellent! Service was good. My only complaint was the food could be a bit warmer. I would eat here again.
As we left the dining room, a busload of people were coming into the restaurant.
On the way out, we walked through the General Store. This General Store is stocked with better food choices than the General Store at Stovepipe Wells. We felt like we could eat healthy out of this General Store but we couldn’t find that sort of variety at the Stovepipe Wells one.
Next, we stopped off at the Borax Outdoor Museum. There is a variety of different tools and machines used to process borax rich salt deposits into borax. Borax is a mineral that dissolves in water and is used in the manufacture of detergents.
FURNACE CREEK RANCH, DEATH VALLEY
Furnace Creek is a spring-fed stream flowing into Death Valley. Native Americans lived here centuries prior to its discovery by the lost Forty-Niners. In 1881, Aaron Winters found borax nearby, and sold his claims and water rights to William Tell Coleman. Greenland Ranch was constructed at this site to support the borax workmen and twenty-mule teams. Francis Marion Smith acquired the site for his company which became US Borax and renamed it Furnace Creek Ranch. They produced borax in the valley until 1927.
The Ranch was opened to guests in 1932. The Museum was set up by Harry Gower and Ann Rosener in 1954 in the oldest structure in the Valley, built about 1883.
Fred Harvey Company purchased the Death Valley properties from US Borax in 1969.
E Clampus Vitus
Slim Princess Chapter 395
June 15, 1996
(Placard Posted at The Ranch at Death Valley)
The above placard was found near the Borax Outdoor Museum.
This is an especially nice resort. The architecture and landscaping are stunning. Each employee encountered knew their job and demonstrated their desire to be helpful and courteous. The store is well stocked. The restaurants have good food. The public spaces are spacious and comfortable.
Next time in Death Valley, we will be staying in Furnace Creek.
Pumps at the gas station are open 24 X 7 X 365. This is the only gas station in the park that carries diesel fuel. Fuel prices are high in the park:
- regular unleaded gasoline – $5.529 per gallon
- Diesel fuel – $5.449 per gallon
Next stop was Death Valley’s main visitor center. As we turned in, I thought it was awfully nice for the park service to provide covered parking for their employees.
It never occurred to me that covered parking would be for visitors until we got much closer. As luck had it, there was a covered spot close to the Visitor Center entrance.
Inside the Visitor Center, a 20 minute movie played every half hour. Surprise! There were people living in Death Valley when Europeans arrived, borax was discovered and claims to minerals and water rights were made. The movie did a nice job of explaining the complex relationships between the Timbisha Shoshone, the National Park Service and Death Valley.
Backtracking, we found Fiddler’s Campground on the north side of the resort.
The majority of the RV sites were back-in without full hookups. The campground had the same parking lot feel that the Stovepipe Wells RV Park only with higher density. Campers do have access to resort facilities, a plus.
Next stop was the Furnace Creek Campground, a National Park Service (NPS) facility sort of behind the Visitor Center with an entrance north of the Visitor Center. This is the only NPS managed campground in the park that takes reservations. Reservations in this campground are available during the high season, October 15 to April 15. Outside those dates, it is first come first served.
Acquiring NPS campground maps has always been a chore. Here is a copy of the park map posted on an entryway pay station wall.
Many of the campsites provide full hookups (water, sewer and electric) for RVs.
All the RV sites are paved, with picnic tables and fire rings.
In places, campsites are closer together than in other parks and other campgrounds. However, this is not a parking lot campground. There is enough space.
The campground has three restrooms with flush toilets. There are no showers in the campground. Each restroom has an outside dish washing station.
The campground also had standalone dish washing stations.
For campers who have been or are boondocking, a dump station is available.
There is also a potable water filling station so campers can take on fresh water.
This campground seems like the best NPS campground in the park as well as the best overall campground in the park beating out the concessionaire campgrounds.
In summary Furnace Creek has:
- Death Valley National Park Headquarters and Visitor Center
- National Park Service Campgrounds
- Furnace Creek
- Texas Springs
- The Oasis at Death Valley, an historic resort that just underwent a $100 million renovation which includes two hotels, an RV campground and the Borax Museum
- The highest reliably recorded air temperature on earth at 134 degrees Fahrenheit (July 10, 1913)
- The highest recorded natural ground surface temperature on earth at 201 degrees Fahrenheit (July 15, 1972)
- 190 feet below sea level elevation
- Harmony Borax Works
- Death Valley Indian Community, the Timbisha Shoshone Indian Reservation
Hope to see you on the road ahead!