At a distance Badwater Basin is a frothy ocean – a great white shining expanse. As you get closer, it starts to resemble snow. When you finally start walking on the flats, it is more like crunchy sand. That’s when you really realize that you’re walking on a 200 square-mile lake bed of salt.
Here, salt crystals expand, pushing a crust into rough, chaotic forms. Newly formed crystals ooze between mud cracks, sketching strange patterns on the surface of the salt flat. Passing rainstorms wash off windblown dust and generate a fresh layer of blinding white salt. Floods create temporary lakes that dissolve salts back into solution, starting the process all over again.
(Notice also the remnants of the previous day’s dust storm still lingering in the sky.)