When looking at the photographs of the people walking out into the bright shiny white void of Badwater Basin, it almost looks like a science fiction movie scene where people wander off and vanish into another dimension. 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 has to do with Badwater Basin being lowest elevation in North America and it is one of the hottest 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 like an outdoor temperature of 90ºF anywhere else or so they say. The truth of the matter is when the temperatures are over 110ºF anywhere on earth it will definitely feel hot outside and a 130ºF day in Death Valley can leave visitors feeling like they have been roasted to a golden brown perfection!
I was worked in Death Valley from June through August a few years ago, so I know how hot Death Valley can be. After a solid week of 126ºF average daytime highs, a solitary day of 110ºF temperatures actually did feel refreshingly cool, so all things are relative as far as high environmental temperatures are are concerned. When going from 126ºF heat in Death Valley back home to the 105ºF temperature in Las Vegas on a 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. This goes to show that the body does adjust to the extremely heat conditions of Death Valley.
If you really want to experience extreme summertime heat, the section of Death Valley between Furnace Creek and Badwater Basin is where the world records are set. Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level and this harsh salt flat environment sure does have a way of letting visitors know that they are in the right place. There is a marker on the side of the cliff that overlooks Badwater Basin that shows where sea level actually is. The Sea Level Marker is so high up from the valley floor, 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 the alkaline water that is too acrid to drink. Visitors are usually surprised to find out that some plants and animals do thrive upon the salty alkaline water in 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.
Badwater Basin 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. Just like always, be sure to 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!
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