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Geology of the National Parks - Death Valley


click for timescale Death Valley National Park through time

Precambrian rocks near Badwater
1.8-1.7 billion-year-old metamorphic rocks in the Black Mountains above Badwater. Photo by Ray Nordeen, NPS.

Dawn's Early Light: Middle Precambrian time

The Earth is 4.55 billion years old, but most rocks dating from the earlier half of that long history lie hidden beneath thick accumulations of younger rocks. In the Death Valley region the crust has been stretched, torn, and has collapsed into a system of enormous basins. Faults along the mountain range fronts have lifted deeply buried rocks up to the surface, revealing Death Valley's ancient basement rocks.

The oldest rocks exposed in Death Valley are about 1.8 billion years, almost half the age of the Earth. These venerable rocks are the remnants of an ancient volcanic mountain belt with its flanking deposits of mud and sand.

At about 1.8-1.7 billion years ago, these volcanic and sedimentary rocks were severely metamorphosed--altered, recrystallized, and partially remelted by the Earth's internal heat and by the load of overlying younger rocks. The original rocks were transformed to contorted schist and gneiss, making their original parentage almost unrecognizable.

At about 1.4 billion years ago, the metamorphic complex was injected with dikes and larger blobs of granitic magma.

| Move forward in time to the Late Precambrian | | Visit Precambrian rocks at Badwater | More on Middle Precambrian Death Valley |
| How do geologists date rocks? |
| Death Valley Geology Home | | Virtual Field Trip | | Geologic History |
| Image gallery | | Geologist's page | | Death Valley National Park

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