Life in Death Valley

NATURE’s Life in Death Valley takes viewers into the simmering cauldron of one of the world’s most extreme environments.

From 93 million miles away, the sun fixes its heated gaze on the scorched desert expanse of Death Valley National Park — the hottest, driest place in North America. But this is no typical desert. Here, breathtaking mountains rise two miles above sprawling salt flats, and mighty sand dunes dance alongside deep craters. Nowhere else is a land so exquisite in its beauty yet brutal in its extremes.

In this ultimate testing ground, the rules are simple — adapt or perish. Fascinating desert dwellers have ingenious ways to outwit Mother Nature in their quest to survive. Tiny antelope squirrels lay with their bellies to the ground in order to purge their bodies of excess heat, while jackrabbits use their long ears to cool themselves.

Whereas the animals appear to do everything in their power to avoid the extreme conditions of Death Valley, many visitors are drawn to the park for the sheer challenge. Top athletes flirt with their own mortality in what has become known as the toughest footrace on the planet, the Badwater Ultramarathon. This 135-mile road race snakes through the valley during the cruel blaze of summer.

In Death Valley, things are never quite as they seem. Beneath its parched surface lies one of America’s largest aquifer systems. Rare access into this astonishing, water-laden underworld brings viewers into a secret realm. Here, a team of biologists works to protect the critically endangered Devil’s Hole pupfish, a species that has lived in this watery cavern since the last Ice Age.

Explore the mystique and the majesty of the largest park in the continental United States on Life in Death Valley.

Online content for Life in Death Valley was originally posted September 2004.

  • briantravelman

    I’ve been here! Twice… Is my favorite national park in California! I like the habitat! Is so different then anything else! Is so one of a kind! And Dante’s View is amazing! Badwater and the dunes! And Ryolite!

  • Catherine

    Don’t know how, but I haven’t seen this episode yet. Above, says it airs on Sunday May 24, 2009. What channel??? I have checked every PBS channel listing in Boston for Sunday night 8pm- not listed anywhere. Please, what channel, what sime May 24th?? Thank you.

  • Vanessa

    Yeah, I agree with Brian..It’s my fave too! I’ve been there twice now, and I just cant wait to go back..It just feels like home to me..Im a geology major and Death Valley is unlike anything!!! Love it!!

  • Gen

    “Ditto” to Catherine’s 23 May post. My local PBS station did not show it but carried the excellent National Memorial Day Concert. I hope to view it at another time after hiking with a group in DV in Dec07.

  • NATURE Online

    Some stations do not carry every episode. The best thing to do is to check your local listings by clicking the “schedule” link at the top of the site.

  • briantravelman

    I would like to make a complaint! It said the episode was gonna be Tuesday, and I checked and it wasnt on channel 9, so I typed it on my TV, and it showed me it was gonna be on channel 300 something, and I don’t get that channel! What’s the deal? Why isn’t it on channel 9?

  • Aida L. Dasaro

    I would like to see the episode on Death
    Valley aired sometime soon. You did us a disservice by not airing it soon after the Memorial Day Concert. It seems to be one of the best I previewed so far.

  • Pradeep Singh

    I was there last week for first time and I cant wait to go for next time. At Death Valley “nature is at is best and worst”. The colorful mountains, quartz everywhere, high temperature @ 110degF, warm winds, sand dunes, salt every where, and in all this harsh weather you see some water with small creatures at Badwater….simply amazing and unbelievable. Death Valley is a experience of lifetime. Mines still preserved and imagine how people worked there. It is a wonderful natural heritage preserved so beautifully.

  • Mike


  • Chip

    who is the narrator? I can’t place his voice.

  • judith

    the narrator is: Anthony LaPaglia.

  • Richard Hiller

    The credits went to fast I didn’t catch the narrator’s either.

  • Jim

    I’ve lived here on the eastern edge of Death Valley for going on 11 years now. The extreme high and low temperatures are quite challenging, but the landscape and photograpic opportunities are beyond compare anywhere; makes it almost worthwhile!

  • Dale Louise Odom

    I viewed this Death Valley episode of Nature tonight on KCET in CA. It has been years since I’ve been ther, so it was truly a new adventure.

    This film on Death Valley was beautifully done, from the photography to the editing to the narration by Anthony LaPaglia. I recognized his voice, but was not able to read the credits as they rolled too quickly. That is why I came online to verify it.

    Anthony has an incredible way of bring drama and passion to his narration, making it truly a treasure.

  • Rob F

    This was a good film, but I would have like more on wildlife and zero on the humans. They can be fitness freaks and kill themselves if they want, but they shouldn’t be a featured part of a Nature documentary.

  • Ruhollah

    I haven’t seen this attractive place yet and seeing it is my wish.

  • Brendan

    Loved the show. I want to take my family there. They think it’s tough in the city.

  • Jim

    Did not realize this was a rerun from several years ago. Was scheduled last night on my local PBS station but after 5 minutes of dead air, a show on Wolves in Yellowstone ran. Hope it shows up on one of its later scheduled airings.

  • peggylee

    Narrator is Anthony LaPaglia from Without A Trace.

  • Liisa

    In response to Jim who got the Wolves in Yellowstone episode this past Sunday night, August 8, 2011. Just to let you know that it aired here (Toronto, Canada). We get our PBS feed from Buffalo. It was an amazing program. I wish it was possible to watch the full episode here online, but sadly they only have a few snippets of the show.

  • Jake

    Accuracy is one of my pet peeves. Near the beginning of the episode it is stated that Death Valley is the largest national park in the “continental” United States. It seems that it is often forgotten that Alaska is part of the continent and consequently part of the “continental” United States. 13.2-million-acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve dwarfs Death Valley’s mere 3.5-million-acres. Perhaps it was intended to say that Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the “contiguous” United States.

  • CK

    Why isn’t this episode available in full online? It seems like a fascinating look at a fascinating place, but I haven’t yet been able to watch it, as every time it airs my PBS stations don’t show it. What gives?

  • Jana Hinds

    Wonderful show! Scenic views were great. I recognized Anthony LaPaglia’s voice & did manage to get the glimpse on the credits. I had been flipping channels & when I heard his voice & started watching the pictures I was entranced. Please make this available on DVD, I’ll buy copies for all my relatives & friends, but me first. Please also air this segment again in Oklahoma City on OETA. Thank you for another favorite show.

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