Badwater Basin Photos – Death Valley National Park

Hexagonal Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Hexagonal Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

These pictures of Badwater Basin were taken during a Photography tour through Death Valley National Park on Thanksgiving Weekend in November of 2009. Out of all of Death Valley’s incredible tourist sights that I visited, including Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, The Devil’s Golf Course, the Artist’s Drive, and the Mesquite Sand Dunes- I most enjoyed the short time I got to spend here.

The "Badwater" Puddle - Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

The "Badwater" Puddle - Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Badwater Basin’s claim to fame is that it sits at the lowest point of elevation in all of North America, at 282 feet below sea level. Incredibly, the highest point of elevation in the lowest 48 states (Mt. Whitney) is only 76 miles West of here!

Looking North From Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Looking North From Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

The area was given its name due to a small pool of water that now sits just next to the modern parking lot. This water was rendered undrinkable by the incredibly high concentration of salt, due to the unique geological features and geochemical makeup of the valley.

Clouds over Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Clouds over Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

In all the traveling throughout Death Valley, this was the only place I saw any standing water whatsoever. And that’s probably not a shock to most of you who know a thing or two about the area (it’s one of the most arid environments in existence), but I was there during a massive rainstorm!

More Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

More Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

The entirety of Badwater Basin is covered in complex and intricate salt-crystal structures of magnificent beauty. This is one of the coolest, most beautiful, and most fascinating places I’ve ever been, and I’ve seen quite a few National Parks. I’d rank this as a must-see destination for anyone at all interested in natural beauty.

Contrasting Colors at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Contrasting Colors at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

As the sun began to dip below the mountain range hugging the valley floor, the shadows grew longer, and the features of the terrain even more spectacular. I sat in awe, watching the landscape transform as it began to glow golden-brown in the late afternoon light.

Detail of Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Detail of Salt Formations at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

The salt formations are created by an endless cycle of freezing and thawing that the area undergoes, when nighttime temperatures dip deep into the blue, while blazing daytime heat leads the thing salt crust surface to crack into hexagonal honeycomb-like shapes.

Close-Up of Salt Pinnacles - Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Close-Up of Salt Pinnacles - Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Occasional rainstorms, like the one I witnessed my last night in the area, flood the valley and cover the entire area with a very thin sheet of standing water, no more a few centimeters deep. These shallow lakes don’t last long due to the daytime temperatures, with an annual evaporation rate of 150-inches!

Mountains of Salt at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Mountains of Salt at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

As Wikipedia points out, this is the United States’ “greatest evaporation potential”, and “means that even a 12-foot deep, 30-mile-long lake would dry up in a single year.” As the water evaporates, some of the salt gets dissolved which ends up being deposited on the sandy floor as clean crystals which eventually accumulate into the incredible oceanic-looking formations.

Salt Formations in Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Salt Formations in Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Close-up shots appear like aerial photography of the Himalayas, with the salt deposits creating the impression of snow-tipped peaks rising from the valley floor. Wandering around the salt plan gave me the impression of being a giant amongst a desolate, but captivating landscape.

Concentrated Salt-Crystal Structure at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Concentrated Salt-Crystal Structure at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

And in areas of extreme concentration, the salt-crystalline structures became increasingly complex. Like a colony of some sort of self-propagating polyps, the appearance of this bubbly landscape took my breath away, and forced me to reevaluate my conception of the area as a dry and dusty desert.

Salt Lines in the Sand at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Salt Lines in the Sand at Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

Be sure to check out some of Death Valley’s other incredible sights by visiting the links listed below.

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2 Responses to Badwater Basin Photos – Death Valley National Park

  1. Chong says:

    The salt formation at Badwater in Death Valley National park is mostly hexagonal. Why? Please help.

  2. Tim says:

    I’m sure you could figure it out via Google, but it’s probably something to do with how salt crystals form.

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