California is home to the lowest point in the US. Located in the heart of Death Valley National Park, Badwater Basin is not only the lowest point in the US but the lowest point in all of North America. This uniquely named basin is 282 feet below sea level. According to the sign located near the basin, the name Badwater Basin came from a traveler passing through on his mule. When the traveler led the animal to the water, the mule refused to drink the salty water.
Visiting The Badwater Basin
This desert area will periodically experience rainstorms that flood the valley. If there is enough rain to accumulate in the basin, it won’t last long due to the high evaporation rate. Badwater Basin is known for its unique salt flats formed in a honeycomb-style formation. The salt flats attract over a million visitors to Death Valley each year. The best time to visit is December through February when the temperatures are mild compared to the sweltering summer months. During the winter months, it is feasible to walk to the salt flats from the parking lot. Those planning a visit in the summer months when the temperatures are as high as 120°F, can clearly see the basin from their car to avoid heading out into the dangerous heat.
It Is Sinking Further
Badwater Basin isn’t in jeopardy of losing its title as the lowest point in the US anytime soon. The basin is continuously sinking as it’s located along the Southern Death Valley Fault. When a vertical shift results in an uplift of the Black Mountains to the east and a dropping of the valley floor, it causes the basin to sink even lower. Typically, when this occurs in other parts of the country, the erosion from the nearby mountains would fill a basin, but that’s not the case in Death Valley. The area only sees an average precipitation of less than two inches per year. This lack of rainfall isn’t enough to cause erosion of the mountain that would fill the basin.