Badwater Basin ~ Death Valley National Park
When one looks at the photograph above of the people walking out into the bright shining white void of Badwater Basin, it almost looks like a science fiction movie scene where people wander off and vanish into another dimension or something. The initial effect is very surreal when viewing Badwater Basin, mostly because this strange place looks as if it belongs on another planet. The thought of why in the world would people be wandering off in the distance on a vast white salt bed when the temperature is over 110ºF does cross the mind. The reason why is because Badwater Basin is one of the lowest places on earth!
A temperature of 110ºF is actually a nice cool day in Death Valley. When considering that the humidity is only about 4%, 110ºF feels kind of like how an outdoor temperature of 90ºF would feel anywhere else. I have lived in some of the hottest places on earth, which includes the Florida Everglades and Death Valley and the perception of environmental temperature is relative to the humidity percentage up to a certain point. When the temperatures are over 110ºF anywhere, it starts to feel like an oven and in Death Valley, a 130ºF day can leave a visitor feeling like they have been roasted to a golden brown perfection!
While I was working and living in Death Valley during the summer season, after a solid week of 126ºF daytime highs a 110ºF day did feel like a mild cool day in spring. When going from 126ºF heat in Death Valley back home to the 105ºF temperature in Las Vegas on my day off from work, I actually was so chilly that I felt like putting a sweater on! Friends wondered why I was shivering and sneezing in the middle of the hot Las Vegas summer, but after saying that I had been working in extreme heat of Death Valley they definitely knew why.
Badwater Basin is officially the lowest elevation in North America. Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level and this harsh environment sure does have a way of letting visitors know that they are in the right place. There is an actual marker on the side of the cliff that overlooks Badwater Basin that lets visitors know where sea level actually is. The Sea Level Marker is so high up, that it can barely be seen with the naked eye! I actually had to use a 300x telephoto lens to zoom in on the sign!
A natural spring feeds a small stream that flows into the Badwater Basin. This majestic place got its name from this flowing spring, because the water has a very high saline content and it is very alkaline to boot. Visitors are usually surprised to find out that some plants and animals do thrive upon the salty acrid water along with the extreme heat. The protected Desert Pupfish has been living in conditions like this since the age of the dinosaurs and this rare species actually thrives in the little spring fed stream in Badwater Basin.
Badwater is one of many interesting attractions in Death Valley and this destination is just a few miles south of Furnace Creek on State Road 190. Nearby are the Devil’s Golf Course, Telescope Peak and Artist Drive, so there are plenty of things to see and do in the Badwater Basin region. Like always, carry plenty of water even when hiking a short distance in Badwater Basin, because Death Valley did not earn its reputation for no reason at all!