Photo of Badwater, Death Valley National Park

Badwater is the lowest point in Death Valley National Park, at 282 feet below sea level. Indeed, it is the lowest point in the entire western hemisphere. The Badwater Basin is the catch point for 9000 square miles of drainage, however, there is typically little water here except following winter rains, since the water evaporates quickly. When it does, it leaves behind a saline, crusty, flat white playa made up of almost pure table salt and stretching for miles — a bizarre place. Evaporation is most extreme in Death Valley: a 1.9 inch annual rainfall is exceeded by evaporation potential of 150 inches per year, enough to scorch a 12 foot deep lake to dust in just 12 months. The water that does manage to persist here is the motivation for the place’s name, for it is a salty, warm, nasty swill which you are advised not to drink. A small, specialized species of snail, the Badwater snail, somehow manages to eke out an existence in these waters. Rising above the parking area are some of the oldest rocks in Death Valley, 1.7 billion (with a b) year old Precambrian volcanic and sedimentary rock layers that have metamorphosed into gneiss. Perched 282 feet up the cliff face is a sign marking sea level. If you visit, be sure to walk out onto the playa, not just a hundred yards or so but far enough that the other visitors and their cars become specks. Admire the sheer white horizon stretching in all directions, the Panamint Mountain and Black Mountain ranges that form the walls of the valley, and the blue sky. Hear the silence as your feet crackle and crunch the salt upon which you walk. Feel the parched air wick the sweat off your skin. Feel your throat become dry. Squint. So nice. Now back to the car and air conditioning, to sip your Diet Coke.

Badwater, Death Valley.  A spring feeds this small pool year round.  The water is four times more saline than ocean water.  The small Badwater snail (Assiminea infima) is found only in Death Valley, in spring-fed pools such as these, and is threatened by habitat destruction.  At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater is the lowest point in North America, Death Valley National Park, California

Badwater, Death Valley. A spring feeds this small pool year round. The water is four times more saline than ocean water. The small Badwater snail (Assiminea infima) is found only in Death Valley, in spring-fed pools such as these, and is threatened by habitat destruction. At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater is the lowest point in North America.
Image ID: 20554
Location: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Badwater, California.  Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America.  9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats, Death Valley National Park

Badwater, California. Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America. 9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats.
Image ID: 15579
Location: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Badwater, California.  Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America.  9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats, Death Valley National Park

Badwater, California. Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America. 9000 square miles of watershed drain into the Badwater basin, to dry and form huge white salt flats.
Image ID: 15580
Location: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California, USA