If you’re planning a trip to Death Valley, visiting the Salt Flats is a must! The site is close to other attractions like the Golden Canyon, Devil’s Golf Course, and Artist’s Palette.
Not only will you enjoy the beautiful landscape there, but you can also catch the beauty of the nearby salt flats.
Let’s look at one of the world’s lowest points: The Death Valley salt flats.
What’s Special About Death Valley Salt Flats?
The salt flats at Death Valley are the lowest and hottest points in North America. It’s 282 feet below sea level, and the temperature there can get up to 120℉!
It’s an undeniably mesmerizing experience to see the unique forms that came into place as a result of salt accumulation.
The salt flats located at Badwater Basin span almost 200㎡. They’re one of the largest protected salt flats in the world.
What Are the Components of the Salt Flats in Death Valley?
The salt flats in Death Valley contain mainly halite, which is also known as rock salt, table salt, or sodium chloride. It forms as a result of water evaporating and leaving behind salt crystals.
There are also some other evaporative minerals, including borax, gypsum, and calcite.
The salt crystals expand, pushing the salt’s crust into rough and haphazard forms. Then, the fresh crystals find their way between mud cracks and sketch patterns onto the surface of the salt flat.
This leaves behind a huge, hypnotizing landscape of hexagonally-shaped crystals, which are in a constant state of change.
Since the area has an extreme climate, it’s susceptible to flooding. Whenever that happens, it causes the salt crust to wash away, which reshapes the entire landscape.
Not to mention, the movement of the wind plays a role in eroding the salt flats, changing their shapes, and creating new patterns.
That’s why visiting the salt flats at Death Valley isn’t a one-time experience. It keeps getting more exciting the more you visit it, as you can make notes of the patterns that have changed over time.
How Are Salt Flats Formed?
Salt flats form in a typical way, which involves a large amount of water, minerals, and evaporation.
Firstly, rainwater falls on the surrounding mountains and flows into a valley or enclosed basin. The rainfall might even occur directly in the enclosed area.
With its flow, the rainwater dissolves rocks and carries minerals from these rocks into the flats. Then, with no sea to drain the water or wash away the salt, the water evaporates under the hot desert sun, leaving the minerals behind.
As time passes and minerals accumulate, a layer of salt starts to form. Finally, with enough mineral accumulation, the hexagonal-shaped salt crystals stretch far and wide across the valley.
This typically happens when the rate of evaporation is higher than the rate of precipitation, in which case the salts and fine silt are left behind.
What Precautions Should I Take Before Visiting the Salt Flats in Death Valley?
It’s important to note that while the salt flats in Death Valley look wonderful and appealing, they’re fragile. That’s why you should take some precautions when you’re in the area, including:
- Stay on the designated trail paths.
- Avoid touching or walking on the salt flats, as it can damage the crust and disrupt the formation of new crystals. Not to mention, you could face charges by the authorities.
- Make sure to stay hydrated, as the hot and dry climate can cause dehydration.
- Use sun protection, including sunscreen and perhaps a cap and sunglasses.
- Make sure to make any calls or send emails before you begin your trip, as you’ll get no signal in Death Valley.
Are There Any Tips for Visitors?
There are a couple of tips that can help you maximize your enjoyment of the experience, which include:
- Visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.
- Wear comfortable shoes, and get ready for those shoes to get some salt on them.
- Charge up your phone or camera to capture some of the beautiful landscape. However, don’t count on getting any signal to upload it to social media until you get back home.
- Respect the environment and take out any trash you bring in.
Are the Death Valley Salt Flats the Largest in the United States?
No. The largest salt flats in the U.S. are located in Utah and cover part of Nevada. The area spans 7,000 square miles and is well-known for its vast landscape of salt flats. The most famous salt flats are the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Visiting the Death Valley salt flats is a truly unforgettable experience, so make sure you prepare well to enjoy it to the fullest.
Make the most of it and capture the beautiful landscape. Meanwhile, respect the environment and don’t meddle with any wilderness in the area or derail off the trails.