A very dry river bed snakes it’s way towards the death valley salt flats in the distance.
Twenty Mule Canyon are eroding remnants of an ancient lake bed which are constantly shifting. When the temperature changes dramatically (at sunrise and sunset), their contractions / expansions are actually audible. They consist
of deeply-eroded hills composed of colorful sediments which have been tilted up from their former horizontal position at the bottom of a long, shallow lake basin that once extended northwest across what is now central Death Valley.
That ancient basin was bounded along its southern shore by volcanos which slowly eroded, shedding mud and gravel into the lake. For nearly five million years this process continued while mud accumulated in the basin to a depth of more than a mile. The mud was rich in minerals like gypsum, borax and talc. These elevated lake beds as of today consist white mineral deposits outcropping above abandoned mine shafts.
Despite the canyon’s name, those famous 20-mule team borax wagons never used this narrow route out of Death Valley, although many smaller teams hauled freight along it. Twenty-mule teams were teams of eighteen mules and two horses attached to large wagons that ferried borax out of Death Valley from 1883 to 1889. They traveled from mines across the Mojave Desert to the nearest railroad spur, 165 miles (275 km) away in Mojave, California. The routes were from Furnace Creek, California, to Mojave, California, and from the mines at Old Borate to Mojave.
Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California, USA