Badwater Basin

Earlier this month, I drove to Death Valley National Park to do some reporting for an on-going project. This was a few weeks before the current “superbloom” sprouted up, but we did see some pretty spectacular scenery while we were there. 

Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park.

(Image by Emily Benson)

Badwater Basin, at about 280 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in North America. The water that collects there has nowhere to go except into the atmosphere. As it evaporates into the arid desert air, it leaves minerals and salts behind, forming salt flats in its wake.

A small pool of salty water sits at the edge of a boardwalk in the middle of the basin. A sign proclaims that the pool “is home to one of Death Valley’s rarest animals — the Badwater Snail. These tiny mollusks exist only in a few springs at the edge of Death Valley salt flats.”

And how did the snails get over the mountains that ring the bowl of the basin? A genetic analysis in 2008 suggested that the Badwater snails, based on the timing of their divergence from a coastal ancestor, likely hitchhiked a ride into Death Valley on migrating water birds.

A pool at the edge of the Badwater Basin salt flats.

(Image by Emily Benson)