gorgeous sunrise colors on the mountains behind zabriskie point in death valley national park

A once-in-a-lifetime chance to kayak in Death Valley National Park

Recent unprecedented rainfall in California has led to the formation of a temporary lake in the typically parched Badwater Basin, offering an unusual kayaking experience in what is usually the driest spot in the United States, according to a statement from the National Park Service.

Located at the lowest point in North America, 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley National Park, Badwater Basin is typically a vast expanse of dry salt flats.

the salt shapes at bad water basin
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Explore Death Valley National Park

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

On average, Death Valley receives about 2 inches of rain annually. However, the area has seen a significant increase in rainfall, with 4.9 inches recorded over the last six months, largely due to two major weather events.

For those seeking epic night skies, the park is set to host its annual Death Valley Dark Sky Festival from March 1 to March 3, offering an exceptional opportunity for stargazing.

“The lake was deep enough to kayak for a few weeks after Hurricane Hilary, but unfortunately, people couldn’t come to enjoy it then,” Wines said. “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!”

Despite some roads being closed, the main routes to Badwater Basin are accessible, allowing adventurers to explore the area.

sunrise from zabriskie point on manly beacon
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Kayak on Lake Manly

The temporary lake, dubbed Lake Manly, stretches approximately 6 miles in length and 3 miles across, with a depth that briefly allows for kayaking. According to park officials, most places will only be 1 foot deep, though that’s enough.

But you’ll need to bring your gear.

“Death Valley does not have any kayaks available for rent. If folks are planning on paddling in the park, they will need to bring their own gear. We also recommend bringing some water to wash the salt of your gear or person,” the park told CNN Travel on Monday.

Even if you don’t want to kayak, photography opportunities here will be endless. Wines added, “However, park rangers believe the shallow lake will still create beautiful reflections through April.”

Visitors are urged to respect park regulations and the delicate desert landscape.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The National Park Service advises, “Parking lots may be full. If parking on a road shoulder, drivers should be cautious of soft shoulders and ensure they are fully out of the driving lane. Footprints in the lakeshore can last for years. People should walk on established pathways.”

All hotels and most campgrounds in the park are open. Paved roads are open to most of the park’s primary features, including the temporary lake in Badwater Basin. The National Park Service continues working on secondary roads, many of which are still closed due to flood damage.

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside