Badwater Basin is an endorheic basin in
Death Valley National Park,
Death Valley, Inyo County, California, noted as the lowest point in
North America, with a depth of 282 ft (86 m) below sea
level. Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 United
States, is only 84.6 miles (136 km) to the northwest.
The site itself consists of a small spring-fed pool of "bad water"
next to the road in a sink; the accumulated salts of the surrounding
basin make it undrinkable, thus giving it the name. The pool does have
animal and plant life, including pickleweed, aquatic insects, and the
Adjacent to the pool, where water is not always present at the
surface, repeated freeze–thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push
the thin salt crust into hexagonal honeycomb shapes.
The pool is not the lowest point of the basin: the lowest point (which
is only slightly lower) is several miles to the west and varies in
position, depending on rainfall and evaporation patterns. The salt
flats are hazardous to traverse (in many cases being only a thin white
crust over mud), and so the sign marking the low point is at the pool
instead. The basin was considered the lowest elevation in the Western
Hemisphere until the discovery of
Laguna del Carbón in
−344 ft (−105 m).
3 See also
5 Further reading
6 External links
Badwater Basin elevation sign
View of the Basins's salt flats
At Badwater Basin, significant rainstorms flood the valley bottom
periodically, covering the salt pan with a thin sheet of standing
water. Newly formed lakes do not last long though, because the
1.9 in (48 mm) of average rainfall is overwhelmed by a
150 in (3,800 mm) annual evaporation rate. This is the
greatest evaporation potential in the United States, meaning that a
12 ft (3.8 m) lake could dry up in a single year. When the
basin is flooded, some of the salt is dissolved; it is redeposited as
clean crystals when the water evaporates.
A popular site for tourists is the sign marking "sea level" on the
cliff above the Badwater Basin.
Crust of hexagonal shapes
The current best understanding of the area's geological history is
that the entire region between the
Colorado River in the east and Baja
California in the southwest (and bordered by various uplifts and
mountains around the west-northwest-northern perimeters) has seen
numerous cycles since at least the start of the
perhaps up to 3 Ma) of pluvial lakes of varying size in a
complex cycle mainly tied to changing climate patterns (particularly,
glaciation during the numerous recent Ice Age cycles), but also
influenced by the progressive depositing of alluvial plains and deltas
Colorado River (cf. Salton Sea), alternating with periodic
water body breakthroughs and rearrangements due to erosion and the
proximity of the San Andreas Fault. This has resulted in a high number
of evaporating and reforming endorheic lakes throughout the Quaternary
Period in the area, with an intertwined history of various larger
bodies of water subsuming smaller ones during water table maxima and
the subsequent splitting and disappearance thereof during the
evaporative part of the cycles. Although these local cycles are now
somewhat modified by human presence, their legacy persists; despite
appearances much to the contrary,
Death Valley actually sits atop one
of the largest aquifers in the world.
Throughout the Quaternary's wetter spans, streams running from nearby
mountains filled Death Valley, creating Lake Manly, which during its
greatest extents was approximately 80 mi (130 km) long and
up to 600 ft (180 m) deep. Numerous evaporation cycles
and a lack of outflow caused an increasing hypersalinity, typical for
endorheic bodies of water. Over time, this hypersalinization,
combined with sporadic rainfall and occasional aquifer intrusion, has
resulted in periods of "briny soup", or salty pools, on the lowest
parts of Death Valley's floor. Salts (95% table salt – NaCl) began
to crystallize, coating the surface with the thick crust, ranging from
3 to 60 in (8 to 152 cm), now observable at the basin
Badwater Basin panorama
Death Valley pupfish
List of elevation extremes by country
List of elevation extremes by region
^ a b "USGS National Elevation Dataset (NED) 1 meter Downloadable Data
Collection from The National Map 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) -
National Geospatial Data Asset (NGDA) National Elevation Data Set
(NED)". United States Geological Survey. September 21, 2015. Retrieved
September 22, 2015.
^ "Find Distance and Azimuths Between 2 Sets of Coordinates (Badwater
36-15-01-N, 116-49-33-W and
Mount Whitney 36-34-43-N, 118-17-31-W)".
Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
^ a b
United States Geological Survey
United States Geological Survey (January 13, 2004). "Badwater".
Death Valley Geology Field Trip. US Department of the Interior.
Archived from the original on December 24, 2007. Retrieved September
Death Valley National Park". The American Southwest.
2010. Retrieved November 15, 2010.
^ "Badwater". Tripadvisor. 2010. Retrieved November 15, 2010.
^ "Our Dynamic Desert". pubs.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
^ a b "The Salton Sea: California's Overlooked Treasure - Chapter 1".
www.sci.sdsu.edu. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
Death Valley Groundwater Basin" (PDF). www.water.ca.gov. Retrieved
^ "Life in
Death Valley ~ Little Fish, Big Splash Nature PBS".
^ a b "
Death Valley Geology Field Trip: Shoreline Butte".
www.nature.nps.gov. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
^ "Oasis near
Death Valley fed by ancient aquifer under Nevada Test
Site, study shows". news.byu.edu. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
^ Philip Stoffer (January 14, 2004). "Changing Climates and Ancient
Lakes". Desert Landforms and Surface Processes in the Mojave National
Preserve and Vicinity. Open-
File Report 2004-1007. USGS, US Department
of the Interior. Archived from the original on October 23, 2009.
Retrieved September 12, 2009.
^ Hammer, U. T. (1986-04-30). Saline Lake Ecosystems of the World.
Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9789061935353.
John McKinney: California's Desert Parks: A Day Hiker's Guide.
Wilderness Press 2006, ISBN 0-89997-389-2, S. 54–55
Don J. Easterbrook (Hrsg): Quaternary Geology of the United States.
Geological Society of America 2003, ISBN 94-592-0504-6, S.63–64
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Badwater Basin (category)
Badwater Basin in the Encyclopædia Britannica
Death Valley and
Death Valley National Park
Fauna, flora and minerals
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Death Valley pupfish
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Amargosa Opera House and Hotel
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Lake Manly (Badwater Basin)
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