Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 states and the actual Death Valley section covers only a small portion of this park. The Death Valley National Park region also has both the lowest elevation and the highest mountain peak in the lower 48 states, so this truly is the land of ultimate extremes!
One would never think of Death Valley as being a summer tourist destination, because of the extreme heat that averages around 120ºF from June through August. Most folks in their right mind are not into being roasted to a golden brown perfection while on vacation, so the short winter and spring seasons are the best choice for visiting this desolate wilderness area.
There are few places in Death Valley where the extreme heat of summer is more intense than the Devil’s Golf Course. Those who thought that the only golf course in Death Valley is located at the Furnace Creek Ranch Resort will be in for an unpleasant surprise. The Devil’s Golf Course is located just a few miles south on Badwater Road in some of the most inhospitable terrain to be found on this planet!
The Devil’s Golf Course actually is a large ancient salt basin on the floor of Death Valley. This unique Death Valley feature was aptly named, because only the devil would want to play golf in this harsh uninviting landscape! Sun scorched large solid rocks of pure table salt stud the basin with an impenetrable rough jagged surface for many miles in any direction. Playing the game of golf in this god forsaken place would surely end in a disastrous way, so the name is apropos.
The Devil’s Golf Course is one of the most dangerous areas in Death Valley, because the big salt rocks have jagged sharp edges that will cut through denim jeans, heavy boots and even car tires. The chance of slipping or tripping on the boulders of jagged razor sharp salt is likely to occur, so hiking in the Devil’s Golf Course is not recommended. A broken bone or severe cut in this remote area can result in a very expensive med-evac helicopter ride to distant hospital. A compound fracture is very likely to occur during any kind of fall at the Devil’s Golf Course, because the crags between the huge jagged salt rocks are deep and a person’s own weight is enough to snap bones when falling awkwardly. One false step can cause a leg bone to shatter in this place and since the summer temperatures are over 120ºF, that can surely mean death if nobody else is around. It is best to heed the warnings, because Death Valley did not get its name for no reason at all!
If my memory serves me correctly, long ago between the World Wars, some tanks or halftrack vehicles were tested for durability on a section of the Devils Golf Course. You would think that a tank with steel tracks would have no problem driving over this rough terrain, but the sharp halide rocks literally turned the vehicles into scrap metal after a short time, so the durability testing in this jagged salt bed ceased soon after.
The origins of the Devil's Golf Course are attributed to the ancient Lake Manly, which once covered the entire Death Valley with deep water about 2,000 years ago. This huge lake dried up and left dissolved minerals and salt deposits in the Badwater Basin region of Death Valley. The old Pacific Borax Company once drilled exploratory holes into the Devil’s Golf Course in the early 1900s and they discovered that the salt was over 1,000 feet deep. Modern geological studies have since shown that this salt basin is actually over 9,000 feet deep! That is one heck of a lot of pure table salt!
After a brief rainfall or when the humidity builds up, pure Sodium Hydrochloride Crystals grow like blooming flowers on the massive salt rocks. The wet salt dries and crystalizes quickly in this arid environment, so there is only a short window of opportunity for viewing the salt flowers. The fresh grown salt crystals actually do look like delicate pure white flower cups. Collecting these pretty looking natural salt crystals can be a fun thing to do. Great care must be taken when collecting salt crystals, because if the salt rocks become the least bit damp, they will dissolve. Putting the salt flowers into a sealed jar is the best preservation method.
The most interesting time of day to visit the Devil’s Golf Course is during the early morning hours during the hot summer season. As the sun rises, the ground temperature rapidly increases from about 100ºF to 165ºF by about 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning. As the salt crystals quickly heat up, they crack and make metallic musical tones. When the first sound of halide crystals popping and tinging are heard, then that is the perfect time to place an ear to the ground, because sound travels stronger and faster through solid matter. The sound of the salt crystals cracking and tinging while listening with an ear to the ground sounds like the strangest natural music that one can possibly imagine! The sound of the rock salt music is like nothing heard before, so this phenomena is truly something unique to experience!
The Devil’s Golf Course access point has a dirt road that has been carved into the salt field, so an average passenger car can safely get to the center of the Devil’s Golf Course to take a look around. Experiencing the vast Devil’s Golf Course is a must to do when visiting Death Valley and if you need to fill up a salt shaker, this is definitely the place to go! The Devil’s Golf Course is an endless supply of pure table salt and it is a very dangerous place to be, yet it is one of the most intriguing landscapes on earth at the same time!
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