Our 4-Day Death Valley Photography Adventure - Don't Drink the Water

8:00:00 AM


After playing a round of golf with the devil, we found ourselves at a low point in our lives.  Literally, the lowest point we've ever been as a family.  We were, in fact, at the lowest point in North America...Badwater Basin.
Badwater Basin, a must-stop destination on any road trip around Death Valley, sits 282 feet below sea level.  It is a beautiful landscape of vast salt flats and was named by a group of early travelers who were more than a little disappointed to discover that this rare source of water in the desert was too salty to drink.  So, they named it bad water and the name stuck.

Not only is it the lowest place in North America, but some of the highest temperatures have been recorded at Badwater Basin.  The day we visited it was around 120-degrees F, but the highest recorded temperature is a sweltering 134-degrees F back on July 10, 1913.  That's just the air temperature.  The surface temperature can get even hotter...on July 15, 1972 the ground temperature reached 201-degrees F.

The air swirling around our legs that day surely felt like a convection oven.  We carried a small cooler of water with us as we walked out to the salt flats.  I am not a hat person, but the sun was so intense that even I put a ball cap on to protect my head and provide some shade for my eyes.

The walk to the salt flats begins with a short wooden boardwalk over a sensitive area of Badwater Basin, the namesake of Badwater called Badwater Pool.  The size of the pool varies every year depending on weather conditions and the amount of water runoff from the nearby Amargosa Mountains.  Even though the water is not drinkable by humans or animals, it is home to a small number of plants and invertebrates, including the rare Badwater snail.

Badwater Pool
Badwater Pool
After walking across the short boardwalk we were greeted by what looked looks like a lake of snow. 


The "snow" isn't snow at all, but leftover salt from evaporated water.  We could hear the salt crunching under our feet as we walked.  We also dug a little bit and found a bit of water.  I dipped my finger in it to confirm that it was indeed hot and tasted it to confirm it was indeed salty.

Some of the bad water at Badwater Basin
Looking back towards the parking lot is a beautiful view of the Amargosa Mountains, with Dante's View and Dante's Peak at the highest elevations.

Looking towards the parking lot from the salt flats.
 Looking around, the endless salt flats seem to be otherworldly.





My daughter and I walked about 1/2 mile out before she got too hot to go any further.  So I took her back to the car and my husband continued on his own. 

Walking out to the salt flats
 He was on a mission to find the famous hexagonal salt formations.  Unfortunately, Death Valley experienced a wet spring before we arrived, and so the formations had been washed away.  There was hardly any sign of them anywhere.



The honeycomb shapes were still visible. 



Despite the heat, Badwater is definitely worth visiting.  It is truly a unique place to stop in Death Valley.  Just preferrably not in the middle of summer.

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