Badwater Basin – Death Valley National Park

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Slow down as you approach the deepest place in the western hemisphere: Badwater.

Death Valley National Park - Badwater Basin

Here, the salt flats of Death Valley reach their lowest point, 282 feet below sea level.

Death Valley National Park - Badwater Basin

Park and head down the steps to the boardwalk.  Here, you can see the salt flats without getting your feet wet or salty.

Death Valley National Park - Badwater Basin

You’ve traveled a long distance to stand at the second lowest point on earth, so why not go all the way?  Walk out onto the salt flats, headed for the water.  Keep in mind, though, the desert plays tricks on your eyes, and the water is farther away than you might think.

Death Valley National Park - Badwater Basin

The salt here isn’t the same as you’ll find up the road, at the Devil’s Golf Course.  There, it’s hard and jagged, here, the salt flats are smooth.  Any formations that stick up are still soft enough to walk on, barefoot.

Planning ahead before you leave your car can make a visit to Badwater much more pleasant.  You’re going to want to walk out into the water, but if you try it barefoot, you’ll soon discover that salt isn’t as soft as sand.  So consider bringing a pair of sandals onto your walk (or even better, an old pair of shoes). 

Death Valley National Park - Badwater Basin

Before you know it, you’re a long way from the parking lot.  You could keep going further, too, since the water remains shallow.

Death Valley National Park - Badwater Basin

The picture above looks out over Badwater basin to the Panamint Mountains.  See the specks in the water on the right side?  Those are people who decided to go much farther out into the water, probably another quarter mile.  Even that far out, the water was still only knee-high.

Death Valley National Park - Badwater Basin

Had your fill of salty water, searing heat, and glaring sun?  Turn around to discover exactly how far you’ve gone.  At some point on your return trip, you’ll notice a sign on the rocky hillside above the road, that shows you exactly how much trouble you’d be in, if the Pacific suddenly rushed into the valley.

There are no benches anywhere along this path.  It’s a big problem if you’re barefoot and salty, and looking for a place to put your shoes back on.

Note: This trip was first published in 2005.  I spent much more time in Death Valley during the Superbloom of 2016.

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