DV III: The Inevitable Low of Badwater

Everybody goes to Badwater, lowest spot in North America. And often the hottest.
There is plenty of water down here at 282 feet below sea level, especially at this fault zone.

The basin is five miles wide but you can usually walk about twenty minutes to see the bizarre endless salt hexagons.


Dry firm footing at start.

The fierce evaporative heat of the sun and the non-existent humidity means the rare but forceful seasonal rain and floods dry up as quickly as they appear.

The waters leave their various white salts, mostly halite and talc, behind.

The various creeks and draws and rills draining into the playa maintain their own chemical identity depending on which minerals they erode and transport most.


Looking south. Abnormally wet with ill-formed hexes.

The talc and salt evaporites are the only treasures here, gold and silver ‘pockets’ being so scarce they are mostly only legendary.
Because everybody goes and because Badwater is located right on the only highway, parking can be tight.

And the wait to use the inevitable smelly though clean pedestal pit toilet can be long-no place to pee out on the playa.

Because the rains here and in the West generally have been epic this year, the basin is so damp few of the usual blindingly white salt hexagons have yet formed.

What people do here.

Firm trodden salt crust when I started the hike onto the playa soon turned to salty water a fraction of an inch deep on top on the salt pan.

Look back now and then.

This year the walk was cool and moist and the ground pretty far out was still wet.

Note different colored rocks and talus scree at fault line above highway to left.

On the hike back look for the two different colors of rocks above and to the left of the parking lot.

That’s where two faults grind together, filtering in floods of water during during brief but fierce rains and otherwise seeping water.


One last insurance shot or selfie before the hike back.

Check out Badwater pond on your way back to the car if it is extant. The pond is too saline for very much life and is seasonal so you may not find it at all.
Everybody goes to Badwater because there is nothing else like it.

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