Snow-white crystals of salt fill the immense pan of Badwater Basin, a crater-like salt flat in the middle of the valley. Flanked by dusky-pink mountain ranges and purple-hued ridges, Badwater Basin is a dreamlike destination. Explore the moonscape saltpan on foot for the chance to say you’ve walked across the lowest point in North America, at 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level.
Wander around the platform that extends down into the basin. Here read about the history and science behind the fascinating formation before you. Between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago, a lake dried up and left behind only salt crystals and dust. You can see a remnant of this lake at Badwater Pool nearby.
Learn the story behind the area’s name. At one time a traveler was exploring the Black Mountains with his mule and came across the basin filled with water. His mule refused to drink, so the traveler named the place “Badwater.” Unlike the Devil’s Golf Course nearby, Badwater Basin is regularly flooded with rainwater. This thin sheet of water rapidly evaporates, depositing sparkling snow-white crystals of salt on the surface.
Step off the platform and walk across the crunchy saltpan. You might see the naturally formed hexagonal-shaped saucers that are dotted across the landscape. This formation is created when the saltpan begins its evaporation and the salt crystals begin to expand. The saltpan stretches for 5 miles (8 kilometers). Look out across the remarkable Black Mountains as you wander across the flats. Take photographs of the monumental mountain range in the distance, contrasting with the glimmering white saltpan in the foreground.
Badwater Basin is located at the southern end of Death Valley National Park. It is accessible by one major road and is a 2-hour drive from the town of Baker. Enjoy the short, flat walk from the parking lot outside the basin. Note that this destination is very popular and can become busy on weekends. There is an admission fee to enter the national park.