Death Valley History – Author Discussion Tues Feb 4, 2014

I realize this is very last minute, but today I had the pleasure to meet Ed Rothfuss and he told me about an interesting talk tomorrow, so I thought I’d pass it along. Ed Rothfuss is currently a docent at the Red Rock Visitor’s Center, but throughout the 1980’s he was the Superintendent of Death Valley National Park. (In fact, my understanding is that he was in charge when its designation changed from a National Monument to a National Park.)


Tomorrow – Tuesday Feb 4, 2014:

Barrick Museum Auditorium, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada
7:30 PM to 9:00 PM

Death Valley National Park: A History

Co-author Char Miller will explore Death Valley’s complicated past and some of its contemporary dilemmas in an illustrated talk, at a lecture co-sponsored by the Museum and UNLV’s Department of History.


What made this especially exciting for Ed and what is not mentioned in the University of Nevada Press notice above is that the “other co-author” of this book – is Hal Rothman. Hal Rothman was an esteemed UNLV history professor and author of several notable local and regional history books, who, unfortunately, died young of terminal illness in 2007.  When Rothman died, he left a 350-plus page unfinished manuscript on the history of Death Valley. The book tomorrow’s talk will discuss is the completion, by co-author Char Miller, of that unfinished book, seven years after Rothman’s death.

If you’re able to, come out to the talk and meet some interesting people and hear some interesting stories about Death Valley NP.

If you can’t make the talk but are interested in the book, it is available on Amazon:

From Amazon:

The first comprehensive study of the park, past and present, Death Valley National Parkprobes the environmental and human history of this most astonishing desert. Established as a national monument in 1933, Death Valley was an anomaly within the national park system. Though many who knew this landscape were convinced that its stark beauty should be preserved, to do so required a reconceptualization of what a park consists of, grassroots and national support for its creation, and a long and difficult political struggle to secure congressional sanction.

This history begins with a discussion of the physical setting, its geography and geology, and descriptions of the Timbisha, the first peoples to inhabit this tough and dangerous landscape. In the 19th-century and early 20th century, new arrivals came to exploit the mineral resources in the region and develop permanent agricultural and resort settlements. Although Death Valley was established as a National Monument in 1933, fear of the harsh desert precluded widespread acceptance by both the visiting public and its own administrative agency. As a result, Death Valley lacked both support and resources. This volume details the many debates over the park’s size, conflicts between miners, farmers, the military, and wilderness advocates, the treatment of the Timbisha, and the impact of tourists on its cultural and natural resources. 

In time, Death Valley came to be seen as one of the great natural wonders of the United States, and was elevated to full national park status in 1994. The history of Death Valley National Park embodies the many tensions confronting American environmentalism.