The lowest point in North America and a golf course that only a devil could love.
Badwater Basin is an endorheic basin in Death Valley National Park. It is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, with an elevation of 282 ft below sea level.
Use the boardwalk to access the “bad water” pool and the salt flats.
Badwater 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 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 in Badwater Basin cover nearly 200 square miles, among the largest protected salt flats in the world. 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.
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.
The Devil’s Golf Course is a large salt pan on the floor of Death Valley. The salt pan is so incredibly serrated that the 1934 National Park Service guide book to Death Valley National Monument stated that “only the devil could play golf” on its surface. Shortly after, the salt pan came to be known as the Devil’s Golf Course.
Lake Manly once covered the valley to a depth of 30 feet. The salt in the Devil’s Golf Course consists of the minerals that were dissolved in the lake’s water and left behind in the Badwater Basin when the lake evaporated. With an elevation several feet above the valley floor at Badwater, the Devil’s Golf Course remains dry, allowing weathering processes to sculpt the salt into complicated formations. The salt and gravel beds extend to a depth of more than 1,000 feet and even up to 9,000 feet in some places. That’s a lot of salt. Devil’s Golf Course can be reached from Badwater Road via a 1.3-mile gravel drive.