Heavy rains form temporary lake in Death Valley; kayaking encouraged

"This is an extremely rare event. Normally the amount of water flowing in is much less than the evaporation rate," a park ranger noted.
Death Valley’s Badwater Basin
Posted at 6:54 PM, Feb 20, 2024

As a powerful atmospheric river storm hit California, it created a lake in one of America's driest regions, providing an "extremely rare" chance for kayaking.

New NASA satellite images show an unusual sight: The typically dry salt flat of Badwater Basin in Death Valley is now filled with water due to heavy rains and flooding.

Experts say the temporary lake that originally formed after Hurricane Hilary in August last year was gradually shrinking, but the strong storms in California this month have now refilled it.

“You might think with no drain to the sea, that Death Valley would always have a lake,” National Park Ranger Abby Wines said in a press release. “But this is an extremely rare event. Normally the amount of water flowing in is much less than the evaporation rate.”

The Badwater Basin holds the title for being the lowest point in North America, sitting at 282 feet below sea level, and it's typically just a dry salt flat.

The National Park notes that the Death Valley normally gets 2 inches of rain per year, but in the past six months, it received 4.9 inches. Most of it came from two events: the remnants of Hurricane Hilary, with 2.2 inches, and an atmospheric river earlier this month with 1.5 inches.

“The lake was deep enough to kayak for a few weeks after Hurricane Hilary, but unfortunately people couldn’t come enjoy it then,” said Wines. “Every road in the park was damaged by flash floods, and it took two months to open the first road into the park. Now most of the main roads are open, so it’s a great time to come visit!”

While Wines is encouraging visitors, it's advised that you keep an eye on updates on the Death Valley National Park website, as the temporary lake may be deep enough to kayak for just a couple of weeks but could still be around through April.