A group of American pioneers dubbed it Death Valley in 1849 after they were seriously misrouted there on their way to California’s Gold Country.
As they finally escaped the valley, one of the women turned around and shouted, “Goodbye, Death Valley!” The name stuck. Despite the name, though, only one of their members actually died in Death Valley—an ailing old man who probably would’ve died no matter where they’d been.
An irony is that the group that named it wasn’t afraid of dying from the heat. Although summer temperatures in Death Valley can be deadly, this group arrived in the valley on Christmas Day and it was freezing.
They were mostly afraid that they’d be stranded like the Donner Party had been three years earlier.