A few minutes in Death Valley’s Badwater Basin

The Badwater Basin in Death Valley is 282 feet below sea level. It’s the lowest point in North America.

It’s also where – if you believe the park rangers at the visitor center – people are keeling over left and right from heat exhaustion.

Death Valley salt flats

Yes, the scare tactics of the park employees kept us from fully enjoying the basin, by making us believe that we’d pass out if we stayed there longer than 10 minutes. Or that we’d spontaneously burst into flames and the remnants of our body would fly off into the air like mist.

The Badwater Basin was #1 on our list of 5 Things to See & Do at Death Valley. If you’re visiting the national park, you’re surely going to stop by Badwater. Here’s what to expect.

Badwater Pool

What to see at Badwater Basin

In summer, it will be well over 100 degrees, sometimes as hot as 120 – hence the warnings from park personnel. Surprisingly, despite the stifling heat, there’s a permanent pool of water.

The Badwater Pool is fed by an underground spring. As the pool rests atop the desert salt flats, the water is five times saltier than the ocean.

Our planet is amazing in that no matter how harsh the conditions are, you can always find organisms that will survive there. Here, it’s the tiny Badwater snail. If you look closely, you can see the snails curling up in the pool.

Badwater snails

The Badwater Basin Salt Flats

Near the pool, you’ll find the salt flats, a crusty mass of land that feels like dried-up mud. You can walk out onto the salt flats if you like. The complete absence of any greenery or rocks makes this a really strange place to stand on.

And that’s pretty much it for Badwater Basin. The main appeal of the place is the novelty of going to a location 282 feet below sea level. You can look up at the nearby mountain to see the sign which indicates the precise location of sea level.

Death Valley sea level sign

So go to Death Valley National Park and check out Badwater. Just don’t forget to bring plenty of water. And wear sunscreen. And a hat. Otherwise, you might get fried like an egg. Or so I hear.


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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

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