Now that's a name designed for tourism. Home to the lowest elevation in North America (86 meters below sea level), Death Valley has a reputation of being a cruel, inhospitable environment. That's true, but not to the degree one might imagine.
Death Valley is long, narrow and surrounded by tall mountain ranges. It's dry and hot, with few shaded areas. How hot? In the summer of 2001, the temperature was over 38 °C (100 °F) for 154 days in a row. That's harsh.
Today there are paved roads, air conditioned cars, and rest stops where you can buy water. When prospectors were travelling to California during the Gold Rush of 1849, no such provisions existed. And if you can imagine what it would be like to travel the landscape in a horse-drawn wagon, you might get a sense of why the area received the name it did.
As for the ‘death’ part? During the California Gold Rush era, only 1 death was recorded in Death Valley.