Place: Badwater, Death Valley National Park, California
Coordinates: 36.230011, -116.767520
Length: as much as you like
Level: 279 ft below sea :-)
Death Valley is on the edge of the Great Basin Desert. It isn't a valley carved by a river but a graben - a depression caused by tectonic forces. Badwater Basin is located in the south region of Death Valley. At 279 ft below sea level, it is the lowest place on land in the western hemisphere. Being a basin, it has no outlet - all the runoff water collected into it evaporate eventually, leaving salt deposits behind.
There's water there: spring water. This water is alkali, not fitting to drink, hence the name Badwater. There are organisms whole in this water, however. The endangered pupfish is one of them.
|Reflection on Badwater.|
Naturally, almost every time I visit Death Valley I also stop at Badwater. Like a chameleon, this place keeps changing its appearance. The water level and the salt formations change with the amount of precipitation and other environmental influences. And yet - it appears eternal.
|People roaming on Badwater Basin's salt flat|
Winter is when temperatures are comfortable enough to visit Death Valley. But even the hottest place in America can get very cold at time, as it was when I visited there with my friend last January.
|Below Sea Level|
Every time rainstorms flood Badwater Basin a temporary lake forms, erases these formations and the salt dissolves. Then the water evaporates and the salt deposits once again. This cycle has been going on for thousands of years, since the last Ice Age.
January 13 was a beautiful day in Death Valley, and we could have wandered in Badwater Basin all day long with no oppressive heat to chase us back to the air-conditioned vehicle.
But the most important reason for visiting Death Valley at that time was still unchecked on my agenda: we were to go after the wildflowers. The photo below, taken on February 14 a bit south of the Badwater parking lot, shows the yellow field of desert sunflowers beyond the salt flat. That would be our next stop.
On our way back I stopped the car a bit north of Badwater to check closely a spot of greenery that looked promising. Above the vegetation, the rocks displayed some very pretty colors too.
The patch of greenery delivered on its promise: a few lush daisy shrubs were showing color.
|Emory's Rock Daisy (Perityle emoryi)|