Death Valley Salt Pan and other playas

The floor of Death Valley is covered by a huge salt pan. The salt is there because the valley floor periodically floods with salt-bearing water. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind the salt. Consequently, the amount of salt on the salt pan is continually growing.

The salt pan is a dramatic example of an ephemeral lake, called a playa. Other playas exist in Death Valley but instead of salt, are usually covered by dry, cracked mud, or very fine silt. See Racetrack Playa, below.


Devil's Golf Course and Badwater Spring

Two very accessible, and recommended parts of the salt pan are Devil's Golf Course and Badwater Spring.

Underneath the salt pan. Before Death Valley became a National Monument in 1934, the Pacific Coast Borax Co. drilled several wells into the salt pan in the search for potash. They found that interbedded salt and mud, with some minor sand and gravel underlies the salt pan as deep as they drilled--more than a thousand feet in some holes. Gravity studies by later researchers suggest that these salt and mud deposits are much thicker but somewhat variable: about 9000 feet thick near Mormon Point (Keener et al., 1993) and Bennett's Well but less than 4000 feet thick opposite Artist Drive (Hunt and Mabey, 1966).


Racetrack Playa and sliding rocks.

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