A new destination emerges in the California Desert
With the growing popularity of Death Valley National Park, which made the top 50 most visited parks in 2018, more visitors than ever are seeking desert experiences beyond well-known points of interest. A new Destination Marketing Organization, Destination: Death Valley Junction, has been created to inform visitors of the variety of lodging and sightseeing available in the region, including tours providing transportation. Death Valley Junction, with a population of fewer than four people, is a speck of a Mojave Desert community just east of the national park.
Its website, www.destinationdvj.com, showcases both natural and manmade places to become immersed in the landscape and includes 19 bookable lodging options as well as tour options.
A visitor and stakeholder survey revealed a variety of reasons people are seeking out these desert spots. One major attraction is the Amargosa Opera House, made famous by Marta Beckett, a ballerina who performed to a small but packed house of delighted visitors for 50 years. Ms. Beckett came to Death Valley Junction (DVJ) in 1967 from New York City. Stranded by a flat tire, she saw the theatre and imagined its purpose. It is famous for its Sistine Chapel-like ceilings and walls of patrons, onlookers and angels she painted. She staged shows from the 1960s to her last performance in 2012. Ms. Beckett died in 2017, but the Opera House provides a variety of shows and performances each season, and is open for tours on a scheduled basis.
Another reason visitors clamor to the area is that it has no walls, no tour tickets and no schedule. Stargazing, photography, hiking, exploring, wildflower spotting and being disconnected from most technology for arid days and nights also ranked high on the marketing survey. The only competition for the area’s sunrises are its sublime sunsets.
Death Valley National Park is designated as the largest Dark Sky National Park in the country by the International Dark Sky Association. The Oasis at Death Valley, the region’s largest resort, and the National Park Service have taken measures to greatly minimize area light pollution. Because of this, the park is designated as a “Gold Tier” Dark Sky Park, the highest level awarded. (Located 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 295 miles northeast of Los Angeles, the region is distant enough from the major cities in the Southwest to provide unobstructed views of the night sky, yet is close enough for city dwellers to escape for the weekend and unplug.)
During the winter and spring months, Death Valley National Park rangers hold stargazing events with various astronomy organizations, but the beautiful dark skies are an attraction for astronomy enthusiasts year-round.
Despite the dry, hot summer conditions in Death Valley, springtime often brings a luscious bloom of colorful wildflowers. Just a little bit of winter rain can bring an abundance of life to Death Valley. The destination’s website, www.destinationdvj.com, informs visitors where to see various wildflowers at specific elevations and best times to find them.
One of the key missions of the organization and website is to provide regional information in one place that inspires visitors to see more of the area and participate in the effort to restore Death Valley Junction’s history.
DVJ is at the intersection of Highway 190 and 127, adjacent to the eastern entrance of Death Valley National Park, and a few miles from the Nevada border. Las Vegas is less than two hours away, due east via U.S Route 95.
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