Anyone who has even been remotely close to Death Valley, flown over it in a plane, or driven through it knows that it’s the closest thing we’ll come to seeing a true wasteland, especially the U.S. It’s unbearably hot, reaching 115-120 degrees 5 months out of the year, and there’s no sign of human life from the main road. Looks are deceiving, however, because a lot of people call Death Valley home.
Keep reading to learn about Death Valley’s inhabitants, how they survive in the extreme heat, and why they love calling one of the hottest, driest places on earth “home”.
Death Valley: A Brief History
Death Valley allegedly got its name from a group of pioneers in the 1880s who were separated from their travel party and nearly died from lack of supplies and lack of knowledge of the area. Now, Death Valley is a massive U.S. National Park and hosts one main resort for visitors who don’t want to camp in the park.
Do People Live In Death Valley?
The short answer to this question is “Yes,” although its history has most people thinking otherwise. No stretch of land would be called “Death Valley” on a whim, but keep in mind that back in the 1800s, travelers didn’t have the same supplies, safety equipment, or resources like we do today.
The first pioneers who successfully made it all the way through Death Valley on foot didn’t have the luxury of air-conditioned cars, handheld fans, or the luxury of taking a break whenever they felt like it.
In 2001, Death Valley was home to 525 people. Today, only about 320 people are living there full-time; the population saw a 28 percent decline back in 2010 and the numbers haven’t fluctuated since.
Today, Death Valley’s citizens unanimously agree that at first, it was very difficult to adjust to the extreme heat, but their bodies adjusted eventually. The valley’s longest-residing citizens actually think 115 degrees is a pretty nice day in the summer, in comparison to “extreme” days. Living on the cusp of these temperatures is actually quite a risk. At 120 degrees, the human body begins to lose some primary functions because it wasn’t created to withstand those kinds of temperatures. On days like this, residents simply remain indoors and wait it out.
Yes, humans can survive in Death Valley, it just takes a little adjusting!
Is There Electricity or Water?
Death Valley has electricity and water and modern amenities including cellphone service, television and an internet connection. Living in Death Valley isn’t for everyone, and current residents agree that it takes a very special kind of person to feel at home there.
The people who live in Death Valley are very connected to nature, and often catch the sunset or count the stars as their nighttime entertainment. For someone to live in that much isolation and silence, they need to be comfortable just sitting in the quiet with their thoughts, and that’s hard to do in this day and age!
Perhaps this is why so many travelers choose Death Valley as their ideal getaway: you can literally leave society behind.
How Do People Survive Out There?
The nearest high school and shopping center is an hour away, and the nearest city is two hours away. With this amount of seclusion, how is it possible that people survive there?
It’s a very tight-knit community, and the people who choose to make Death Valley their home usually do so for very similar reasons: to leave their past life behind and start a new one away from all the noise of the world.
The people of Death Valley find connection through their similar stories, and they have everything they need for survival: jobs that provide housing, food, and water. There are no malls, supermarkets, bowling alleys, so the teens and young adults use the great outdoors as their playground.
What is the Oasis?
The Oasis is Death Valley’s premiere resort, offering a top-notch getaway experience for honeymooners, single travelers, and anyone in between who wants a special desert vacation. Visitors have two options for their experience at the Oasis: the home-y, down to earth vibes of the Ranch at Death Valley or the upscale and peaceful Four Diamond Inn.
The Oasis has restaurants, a golf course, and they host tours and activities for exploring Death Valley.
What Tribe Lives in Death Valley?
The Timbisha Shoshone tribe have lived in Death Valley for around 1,000 years and today, around 50-60 people still reside in the Indian Village. Many of them work for local organizations or the resorts, and some have gone off to college to come back and help the tribe maintain their heritage. The Timbisha are also very active in water conservation efforts for Death Valley, and many of them volunteer their own time to teach the younger tribe members work skills.
Thriving in Death Valley
Overall, surviving in Death Valley is possible – a few hundred people manage to do it every year, and it’s become second nature for them! Whether you’re simply curious about life in the hottest desert in the U.S., or you’re thinking about taking a trip out there yourself, you now know that despite extreme temperatures and isolation, thriving in Death Valley is possible, and a few hundred people love calling it “home”.