Visiting the Lowest Point in North America
Jason Daniel Shaw
BADWATER BASIN – DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park is the lowest point in North America. It is a vast salt flat that, as you can imagine, gets very hot in the summer. However, it is an interesting place to visit, makes a great photo spot and a must-see when you are visiting Death Valley. There is a good sized parking lot that has never been full when I have visited in the past that allows you to pull off of Badwater Road about 30 minutes south of Furnace Creek. From here, you can venture down to the boardwalk below, where you will find a small pool of what looks like toxic water next to and under the walkway. There is a sign that marks the spot for your photo album. You can make your way out onto the salt flat and admire the geometric designs left on the ground. When you turn around to head back to the car, make sure to take a look up on the side of the mountain across from the parking lot to spot the sea level mark. It is impressive to see just how far below Badwater Basin actually sits. If you take a walk across the street, you can actually get a bit of an aerial view of Badwater Basin and the rest of the valley.
DEVIL’S GOLF COURSE
Another stop along Badwater Road on the way to or from Badwater Basin is a strange place called the Devil’s Golf Course. No, it is not an actual golf course but called so because it is said that only the devil could play golf in such a place. Be warned that the rocky formations here are very sharp and will cut you if you are not careful. However, with that being said, it is almost compulsory to venture out into this craggy earth to get a real sense of scale of this place.
This next spot lies between Badwater Road and highway 190 but is actually accessed from 190. It is a viewpoint where you can overlook the colorful badlands called, Zabriskie Point. It is a very short walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint but it is an uphill walk. The views from the top are breathtaking and you can even venture down into the terrain, although, the perspective is deceptive and places may be further than they seem.
NATURAL ROCK BRIDGE TRAIL
Another stop to make along Badwater Road is the Natural Rock Bridge Trail. It is a short hike to a natural rock bridge that spans a slot canyon. While the 10-minute hike to the bridge isn’t far, it is uphill the whole way and can be very hot in the summer. Make sure to bring lots of water. You can continue on past the bridge and eventually come to a couple dried waterfalls that are neat to see. At one point, near the end of the trail, you are required to do a bit of rock scrambling but that is just part of the fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of this stop but will the next time I make it out there. In the meantime, plan your trip to Death Valley and make sure to visit all of the sites along Badwater Road. If you are looking for some other ideas on what to do while in Death Valley, check out my other posts.