The vast, surreal salt flats of Badwater Basin change constantly.
Salt crystals expand, pushing the crust of salt into rough, chaotic
forms. Newly formed crystals ooze between muckracks, sketching
strange patterns on the surface of the salt flat. Passing rainstorms
wash off windblown dust and generate a fresh layer of blinding
white salt. Floods create temporary lakes that dissolve salts back
into solution, starting the process all over again.
The source of Badwater's salts is Death Valley's drainage system of
9,000 square miles -- an area larger than New Hampshire. Rain
falling on distant peaks creates floods that rush ever lower. Along
the way, minerals dissolve from rocks and join the flood. Here, at
the lowest elevation, floods come to rest, forming temporary
lakes. As the water evaporates, minerals concentrate until only the
salts remain. After thousands of years, enough salts have washed
in to produce layer upon layer of salt crust.
Salt crusts are fragile. Please tread lightly.
Sodium Chloride -- better known as table salt -- makes up the
majority of salts on Badwater Basin. Other evaporative minerals
found here include calcite, gypsum, and borax.