Death Valley Now Has a Temporary Lake of Its Own

It won't last for much longer, though

Death Valley
The sun rises beyond the sprawling temporary lake at Badwater Basin salt flats, which was caused by flooding in August from Tropical Storm Hilary, at the recently reopened Death Valley National Park on October 23, 2023.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

When you think of inhospitable places, odds are good that anywhere with the word “death” in its name will be high on the list. That’s certainly the case for Death Valley, a locale so named because a group of 19th-century settlers passed through it and found themselves anticipating their collective demise.

But that was in the middle of the 19th century. Now it’s the end of October in 2023, and Death Valley is currently home to a scenic, deeply photogenic lake — at least for a little while longer. And it’s left both visitors and the government agency that administers the park equally amazed.

As Jennifer Nalewicki reported at Live Science, the temporary lake is the result of flooding in August, which left Death Valley National Park temporary closed until recently. By mid-September, a foot-deep lake had formed in Badwater Basin, and the lake has continued to be a part of the landscape, though it is gradually losing depth — as Nalewicki writes, the lake is now only a few inches deep, and will soon be gone. It’s the first body of water of its kind since 2019.

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As CNN meteorologist Mary Gilbert noted, the rains that fell in August brought the equivalent of a year’s worth of rain to Death Valley in the span of an hour. The lake isn’t the only unexpected sight that this rainfall brought; wildflowers have also sprouted in places where park workers and visitors rarely see them.


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