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Badwater Basin
Location Death Valley
Inyo County, California
Coordinates 36°14′24″N 116°49′54″W / 36.23998°N 116.83171°W / 36.23998; -116.83171Coordinates: 36°14′24″N 116°49′54″W / 36.23998°N 116.83171°W / 36.23998; -116.83171
Lake type Endorheic basin
Primary inflows Amargosa River
Primary outflows Terminal (evaporation)
Basin countries United States
Max. length 12 km (7.5 mi)
Max. width 8 km (5.0 mi)
Surface elevation -86 m (−282 ft)
Settlements Badwater, California
References U.S. Geological Survey Geographical Names Information System: Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin is an endorheic basin in Death Valley, Inyo County, California, noted as the lowest point in North America, with an elevation of 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 states, is only 76 miles to the west.

The site itself consists of a small spring-fed pool of "bad water" next to the road; the accumulated salts of the surrounding basin make it undrinkable, thus giving it the name. The pool does have animal and plant life, including pickleweed, aquatic insects, and the Badwater snail.

Adjacent to the pool, where water is not always present at the surface, repeated freeze–thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push the thin salt crust into hexagonal honeycomb shapes.

The pool itself is not actually the lowest point of the basin: the lowest point (which is only slightly lower) is several miles to the west and varies in position. However, the salt flats are hazardous to traverse (in many cases being only a thin white crust over mud), and so the sign is at the pool. It is often mistakenly described as the lowest elevation in the Western Hemisphere, but that is actually Laguna del Carbón in Argentina at −105 meters (−344 feet).

Contents

Geography

Badwater Basin following the rains of 2005

At Badwater, significant rainstorms flood the valley bottom periodically, covering the salt pan with a thin sheet of standing water. Each newly-formed lake does not last long though, because the 1.9 inches (48 mm) of average rainfall is overwhelmed by a 150-inch annual evaporation rate. This, the United States' greatest evaporation potential, means that even a 12-foot-deep, 30-mile-long lake would dry up in a single year. While the basin is flooded, some of the salt is dissolved; it is redeposited as clean crystals when the water evaporates.[1]

Painted on the cliff above Badwater is a sign that denotes "Sea Level".[2] The sign is popular with tourists.[3]

History

During the Holocene, when the regional climate was less dry, streams running from nearby mountains gradually filled Death Valley to a depth of almost 30 feet (10m), and together with Cotton Bail Marsh and Middle Basin, made up the 80 mi (130 km) long, Lake Manly.[4] Some of the minerals left behind by earlier Death Valley lakes dissolved in the shallow water, creating a briny solution.

The wet times did not last as the climate warmed and rainfall declined. The lake began to dry up and minerals dissolved in the lake became increasingly concentrated as water evaporated. Eventually, only a briny soup remained, forming salty pools on the lowest parts of Death Valley's floor. Salts (95% table salt - NaCl) began to crystallize, coating the surface with a thick crust from three inches to five feet thick (1-1.7m).[1]

In Popular Culture

  • There is a map in the online video game Team Fortress 2 called Badwater Basin.

References

  1. ^ a b United States Geological Survey (2004-01-13). "Badwater". Death Valley Geology Field Trip. US Department of the Interior. Archived from the original on 2007-12-24. http://web.archive.org/web/20071224063142/http://geology.wr.usgs.gov/parks/deva/ftbad2.html. Retrieved 2009-09-05.  
  2. ^ The American Southwest, Badwater, Death Valley National Park. Accessed 2009.11.19.
  3. ^ Tripadvisor, Badwater. Accessed 2009.11.19.
  4. ^ Philip Stoffer (14 January 2004). "Changing Climates and Ancient Lakes" (.html). Desert Landforms and Surface Processes in the Mojave National Preserve and Vicinity. Open-File Report 2004-1007 (USGS, US Department of the Interior). http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2004/1007/climates.html. Retrieved 2009-09-12.  

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Simple English

Badwater Basin
Location Death Valley
California
Coordinates 36°14′24″N 116°49′54″W / 36.23998°N 116.83171°W / 36.23998; -116.83171Coordinates: 36°14′24″N 116°49′54″W / 36.23998°N 116.83171°W / 36.23998; -116.83171
Lake type Endorheic basin
Primary  inflows Amargosa River
Primary  outflows Terminal (evaporation)
Basin  countries United States
Settlements Badwater, California
References USGS GNIS: Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin is a basin in Death Valley National Park, Death Valley, California. The water which goes into it does not flow into any ocean.

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, at 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. Mount Whitney, the highest point in the 48 states,[1] is only 76 miles west of the Basin.

Badwater Basin has a small natural pool of undrinkable water next to the road. The water comes from a spring. It is called 'Badwater' because people cannot drink the water. This is because so much salt has built up from the basin. The pool does have animals and plants living there, including pickleweed, insects, and the Badwater snail.

The pool is not actually the lowest point of the basin. The lowest point is several miles to the west, the exact point which is lowest changes. However, the salt flats are dangerous to travel across (in many cases being only a thin white crust over mud), therefore the sign states that the lowest point is at the pool, where people can see it. Some people say that it is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, but this is not true. The lowest point is actually Laguna del Carbón in Argentina at −105 meters (−344 feet).

Contents

Geography

File:Badwater tm5
Badwater Basin following the rains of 2005

At Badwater Basin, big rainstorms sometimes flood the bottom of the valley. They cover the salt pan with a thin sheet of standing water. This makes new lakes, but the lakes do not last long. This is because the average 1.9 inches (48 mm) of rain that falls every year is much lower than the a 150-inch annual evaporation rate, so all the water evaporates away. This means that even a 12-foot-deep, 30-mile-long lake would dry up in a single year. While the basin is flooded, some of the salt dissolves and goes back into the basin as clean crystals when the water evaporates.[2]

Painted on the cliff above Badwater is a sign that says "Sea Level" [3] which people visiting like to look at.[4]

History

During the Holocene, when the regional climate was less dry, streams that ran from mountains in the area slowly filled Death Valley until it was 3 feet (1m) deep. Eventually, there was a 80 mi (130 km) long lake, Lake Manly.[5]

The wet times with much rain did not last. The temperature got warmer, and there was less rain. The lake began to dry up, and as the water evaporated, the lake became saltier. Eventually, only a soup of brine was left. Salts (95% table salt: NaCl) began to turn into crystals, covering the surface with a thick crust from three inches to five feet thick (1-1.7m).[2]

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