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Death Valley and the Amargosa: A Land of Illusion Paperback – January 11, 1988

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Death Valley and the Amargosa: A Land of Illusion + Hiking Death Valley: A Guide to Its Natural Wonders and Mining Past + Death Valley National Park Recreation Map (Tom Harrison Maps)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 622 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 4th Printing edition (January 11, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520063562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520063563
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #937,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 29, 1996
Format: Paperback
This book contains an excelent, highly detailed account of
the history of Death Valley, CA from the first appearances
of man up to it's designation as a National Monument in 1933
by President Herbert Hoover. It is very well researched as
evidenced by the bibliography at the end of the book. Mr.
Lingenfelter allows the reader to experience the trials and
tribulations of the many soles who entered into "The Valley
of Death" to discover, the hard way, the many illusions promoted by the published accounts of those who ventured before
them. A must read for anyone wishing to visit the National
Park for a drive or hike through a very mysterious and beautiful land.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
What more could one want in a history book? Clean clear writing (and Lingenfelter is a professor of physics--go figure), plenty of interesting characters, loads of legends, and a starkly beautiful setting to back it all up. Lingenfelter has done a marvelous job. I've poured over his book twice and could easily read it a third time again without feeling bored. This book gives a wonderfully complete history of the Death Valley area. Read it first or take it along if you plan to visit. It will increase your appreciation of Death Valley immensely, and you'll be enthralled by the history as its told here.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bomojaz on May 31, 2006
Format: Paperback
In the Preface to this definitive history of Death Valley, Richard Lingenfelter writes, "This is the history of Death Valley, where that bitter stream the Amargosa dies. It embraces the whole basin of the Amargosa from the Panamints to the Spring Mountains, from the Palmettos to the Avawatz.... This is the story of an illusory land, of the people it attracted and of the dreams and delusions they pursued.... But mostly it's the story of the illusions - of the shortcuts to the gold diggings, of the deadliness of the land, of the bonanzas and immense riches ...." The history spans a period of time from its earliest recollections to 1933, when Herbert Hoover designated it a National Monument.

Apparently Death Valley got its name from a group of Argonauts passing through on their way to the California gold fields in 1850. The name first appeared on a map in 1861. Paiute and Shoshone Indians frequented the area, of course, long before whites showed up, and lived off crops they grew. The earliest whites were prospectors, looking for gold and silver. Ironically, the most valuable resource would turn out to be the white substance anyone could find just by looking: borax. Millions of dollars worth of borax was shipped out of the valley, first by the legendary 20-mule team wagons, and then by train. In the early 20th century gold was discovered in the valley and soon gold camps and boomtowns, places like Bullfrog, Beatty, and Rhyolite, were attracting miners and get-rich-quick schemers from all over the country. Copper and gas frenzies followed, but the next big change to the area was brought about by the automobile: tourists in their Model Ts were invited to "see Hell firsthand" and to experience the mysteries and uniqueness of this unforgiving area with Death in its name.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By blackturtle on May 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book provides incredibly thorough coverage of the history of Death Valley. For my interests, I wish the emphasis had included more information about Panamint Valley, Searles Valley, and the Darwin area, but these, somewhat peripheral, areas do get some coverage. The details provided by the author are very helpful and it is obvious throughout the book that the history presented here was carefully researched and authoritative. On top of everything else the entire story of Death Valley is presented clearly and in a style which is enjoyable to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. J. Snyder on January 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is much more than just a social or human history of Death Valley.

It's also a highly in-depth natural history. And, it must be.

No human history of the hottest, driest, lowest, and certainly starkest place in North America could discuss human history without examing both the climate and geology behind it.

And Lingenfelter does an excellent job of doing just that.

Learn more about early treks across this land, the Native Americans, precious metal and borax/chemical mining and more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. G. Wickberg on April 23, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not only one of the most informative books ever published on the history (as opposed to the geography, geology, anthropology or wildlife - if you want those, go elsewhere) of Death Valley and the mountains surrounding it, it is a thoroughly amusing and satisfying read for any student of Western history and does for Death Valley what J. Frank Dobie did for territories further south. One gets the impression that in spite of its inhospitable nature, there may have been more frauds per square foot committed around Death Valley than any other American soil west of Wall Street. Lingenfelter traces them all, and one of the charms of his book is that while he is admirably even-handed in puncturing the inflated claims of bull-shippers like Death Valley Scotty and George Graham Rice, he seems to have a sneaking affection for all the boodlers, grifters, con men and watered-stock-artists he chronicles, as well as for the hopeful dreamers totally unprepared for Mother Nature's crueler side who seem to have populated the region ever since the first California-bound covered wagons stumbled into it. In fact, the only thing missing from this book that I would have found useful is a record of what is still there to be seen of the colorful boom towns he chronicles - for example, according to the National Park Service, Rhyolite still has quite a bit to reward the sightseer (even though it has had to be fenced off to keep tourists from carrying it away bit by bit as souvenirs to decorate their dens), while the once-flourishing mining towns of Greenwater and Bullfrog have so totally disappeared that there is nothing at all to be seen there today.
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