When we first arrived in Death Valley we were somewhat disappointed by the impact of the previous week’s rains on the landscape. Many of the roads were closed, and access to most of the more remote locations was limited. Even the famous icons were impacted, with the Mesquite sand dunes actually flooded in places, and the salt flats at Badwater under maybe an inch of water. Our disappointment soon gave way to recognition of the fact that we were witnessing Mother Nature at work, right before our very eyes.
We spent our first evening in Death Valley at Badwater, where there was about an inch or so of water pooling in the salt polygons. The shapes and textures were not exactly pristine, but nonetheless the place was still recognizable as the Badtwater salt flats. The following morning we returned to the same location, only to find that considerably more water had seeped down through the earth onto the valley floor, and the salt flats were showing serious signs of upheaval and chaos. While this made for some interesting reflections of the Panamint Range, it also made composing a pleasing image quite challenging. As you can see in the video that Sam shot from that morning, much of the landscape was broken and uplifted, probably due to the impact of the water level rising underneath. A couple of days later and the ridges and shapes were completely gone, totally submerged under a shallow but widespread lake that stretched across most of the entire valley floor.
It was very interesting to see the changes in the landscape occur so abruptly, and although we would like to have been able to see the park in all its traditional splendor, our visit during this time allowed for an intriguing and impressive glimpse of the raw power of nature as huge swaths of land were literally transformed overnight.