At 282 feet below sea level, this low spot in Death Valley really has only a small, shallow pond of extremely salty water – hence its name Badwater! The entire salt flat is nothing but a dried up ancient lake which did not have a drain to the sea and cumulated over many thousands of years salt in abundance and shows itself now as a salt flat as there is not creeks feeding it anymore and the little that comes down the mountains evaporates quickly with the high temperatures.
After rain part of the salt flat forms a pond and provides fantastic reflections, but even when more or less completely dried out the salt forms polygonal fractures which gives the flat a very dynamic and unique look.
For navigational purposes in Death Valley you need to have some landmarks in mind. One of these reference marks is Furnace Creek. Most of the services and facilities in Death Valley are located here. You will find a service station, eating places, hotels, campgrounds, post office and the Visitor Center. Furnace Creek also is the intersection point for Highway 190 and Road 178.
It is an easy ride down south on Road 178 for 17.5 miles until you get to a parking lot to your right. You can stop here and walk down the trail onto the salt flat or drive another 1-2 miles further and than walk down onto the salt flat. Walk until you get to water and if there is non keep just on walking until you find the polygonal structures which are formed by the cracking of the salt.
The majority of people go there to take their shots in the late afternoon to sunset, including myself. After being there now three times and analyzing the setting with the salt flat stretching along a north-south axis, the Panamint Range at the west and the Funeral Mountains at the east I came to the conclusion that early morning around sunrise must be the better moment for several reasons. Everybody goes there in the afternoon making it a crowded place. In the morning you will have it only for you. The Funeral Mountains are lower compared to the Panamint Range, besides latter has a more attractive geologic pattern and with the first light on it and coming from behind you, you will be able to explore the reflections on the water and the salt texture in a much better way.
Last update: April 1, 2014