The Devil's Golf Course
The Devil's Golf Course is a large salt pan on the floor of Death Valley, located in the Mojave Desert within Death Valley National Park, in eastern California. It is a large, dry lakebed covered in sharp, spiky rocks. The rocks are formed from evaporites, minerals that are left behind when water evaporates. The most common evaporite in the Devil's Golf Course is halite, or table salt. Although its exact boundaries are poorly defined, it extends from the vicinity of the Ashford Mill site to the Salt Creek Hills, a distance of about 40 miles.
The salt pan is essentially a gigantic, dried up bed of a lake that once covered the valley to a depth of 30 feet. Some 2,000 to 4,000 years ago the lake dried up leaving behind dissolved minerals which, over thousands of years, were sculpted by weathering processes into fantastic shapes.
The salt pan is so incredibly serrated that the 1934 National Park Service guide book to Death Valley National Monument stated that "only the devil could play golf" on its surface. Shortly after, the salt pan came to be known as the Devil's Golf Course.
|Salt pans span across the desert in The Devil’s Golf Course Death, Valley National Park.|
Photo: Jitze Couperus
Formation of the Devil’s Golf Course
The Devil's Golf Course formation is attributed to a combination of geological processes, including tectonic plate movement, evaporation of ancient lakes, and precipitation of borax from underground aquifers.
Tectonic plate movement created a basin below sea level in Death Valley. During the Pleistocene Epoch, this basin was filled by a series of large lakes, fed by rivers and streams from the surrounding mountains. Known as Lake Manly, this body of water reached depths of 600 feet. During this period the majority of the salts that comprise these formation entered the area.
At the close of the last Ice Age (about 10,000 years ago) climate change initiated a period of evaporation drying up this lake. Then for a brief period during the Holocene (2,000 to 4,000 years ago) the climate was again much wetter and another shallow lake formed primarily from snow melt in the surrounding mountains and the drainage of the Amargosa River. This time the salt pan flooded to a depth of about 30 feet.
The climate warmed again, rainfall declined, and the shallow lakes began to dry up. As water evaporated, minerals dissolved in the lake became increasingly concentrated eventually leaving a thick salty pool on the lowest parts of Death Valley's floor.
|Devils Golf course is defined by a crust of hard salt and mud shaped eroded by wind and rain|
Photo: Herr Herrner
Borax, a mineral that is dissolved in groundwater, precipitated out as the groundwater evaporated. The Devil's Golf Course is located over a large aquifer of borax-rich groundwater. As the groundwater evaporates, the borax crystals are left behind on the surface.
The borax crystals in the Devil's Golf Course are typically about the size of golf balls, but they can range in size from small pebbles to large boulders. The crystals are sharp and jagged, and they can be dangerous to walk on without protective footwear.
Visit the Devil's Golf Course
The Devil's Golf Course is located in the Badwater Basin, which is about 20 miles west of Furnace Creek. The best way to get to the Devil's Golf Course is by car. There is a parking lot at the Badwater Basin Visitor Center, and there is a short trail from the visitor center to the Devil's Golf Course.
When visiting the Devil's Golf Course, it is important to wear sturdy shoes and long pants. The rocks are very sharp and can easily cut your skin. It is also important to stay hydrated, as the heat and dryness can be dangerous.
|The Devil's Golf Course, Death Valley |
Photo: Longan drink
|Salt pans span across the desert in The Devil’s Golf Course.|
Photo: James Forsyth
|Salt Flats in The Devil’s Golf Course Death Valley.|
|Natural Salt crystals at Devil's Golf Course.|
Photo: Brocken Inaglory