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    Death Valley

    National Park CA,NV

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  • EXTREME SUMMER HEAT

    Expect high temperatures of 100 to 120 degrees F on your summer visit to Death Valley. Heat related illness is a real possibility. Drink plenty of water and carry extra. Avoid activity in the heat. Travel prepared to survive. Watch for signs of trouble. More »

  • Zabriskie Point to close for repairs

    Starting October 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015, all access to Zabriskie Point and surrounding area will be closed for major rehabilitation work to repair unstable support walls and improve conditions.

Salt Flats

Badwater Basin
 

The salt flats in Badwater Basin cover nearly 200 square miles, among the largest protected salt flats in the world.

Salt flats are too harsh for most plants and animals to survive, yet are quite fragile. Delicate crystals are easily crushed and the relatively thin upper crust of salt can break through to the mud layer below, leaving tire tracks and even footprints. For this reason, vehicles are prohibited off established roads in Death Valley.

What causes salt flats?
Three basic things are needed for salt flats to form:

  • source of salts, usually from a large drainage system
  • enclosed basin that doesn't drain to the sea and wash away the salts
  • arid climate where evaporation exceeds precipitation, leaving behind just the salts and fine silt
 
salt crystals

salt crystals

Salt of the Earth
Sodium Chloride—better known as table salt—makes up the majority of salts on Badwater Basin. Other evaporative minerals found here include calcite, gypsum, and borax.

Intense Concentration
The source of Badwater’s salts is Death Valley’s drainage system of 9,000 square miles—an area larger than New Hampshire. Rain falling on distant peaks creates floods that rush ever lower. Along the way, minerals dissolve from rocks and join the flood. Here, at the lowest elevation, floods come to rest, forming temporary lakes. As the water evaporates, minerals concentrate until only the salts remain. After thousands of years, enough salts have washed in to produce layer upon layer of salt crust.

Crystal Power
The vast, surreal salt flats of Badwater Basin change constantly. Salt crystals expand, pushing the crust of salt into rough, chaotic forms. Newly formed crystals ooze between mudcracks, sketching strange patterns on the surface of the salt flat. Passing rainstorms wash off windblown dust and generate a fresh layer of blinding white salt.
Floods create temporary lakes that dissolve salts back into solution, starting the process all over again.

Did You Know?

The Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley National Park

In 1929, no rain was recorded in Death Valley, California. From 1931 through 1934, a 40 month period, only 0.64 inches of rain fell. More...