Badwater Salt Flats Basin
Inyo County, CA
Hike: there is one 1/2 mile trail that goes out into the flats Level: Easy
Dog-Friendly: No Kid-Friendly: Yes
Death Valley has some incredible salt flats that should definitely be on your list to visit if you are trekking out here. The Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, with a depth of 282 ft. below sea level!
The site itself consists of a small spring-fed pool of “bad water” next to the road in a sink; the accumulated salts of the surrounding basin make it undrinkable, thus giving it the name. The pool does have animal and plant life, including pickleweed, aquatic insects, and the Badwater snail.
Adjacent to the pool, where water is not always present at the surface, repeated freeze–thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push the thin salt crust into hexagonal honeycomb shapes.
At Badwater Basin, significant rainstorms flood the valley bottom periodically, covering the salt pan with a thin sheet of standing water. Newly formed lakes do not last long though, because the 1.9 in of average rainfall is overwhelmed by a 150 in annual evaporation rate.
This is the greatest evaporation potential in the United States, meaning that a 12 ft. lake could dry up in a single year. When the basin is flooded, some of the salt is dissolved which is redeposited as clean crystals when the water evaporates.
We were below sea level! I took this shot with my zoom lens. That sign was high up on a mountain:
We came back the last morning we were in Death Valley for some sun rise shots. It did not disappoint!