The Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley… An Interlude

The sun beats down on the Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley.

Only the Devil could play golf here.” 1934 National Park guide book.

Peggy and I are playing hooky, extending our seemingly endless time away from home. One would think that backpacking the PCT, visiting Puerto Vallarta, and spending over a month with our kids in Florida and North Carolina would satisfy our wandering needs for a while. But no, here we are in Las Vegas, or Lost Wages, as I like to call it, ensconced in a comfortable suite at the very southern tip of Las Vegas Boulevard, the infamous Strip. Or is that famous?

Few people who visit this city venture outside of its mecca of gambling and entertainment pleasure palaces. Peggy and I always do. There is much to see and do. There is a desert on its doorstep, and it is a desert of rare beauty. Death Valley National Park is a prime example. It is a mere two hours away and Peggy and I drove out there on Sunday. To us, it’s like seeing an old friend; we have been there many times.

It is a geologist’s dream— there are rocks everywhere, and the rocks all have stories to tell. It’s a story of ancient seas and lakes and volcanic activities and clashing, mountain-building plates. Death Valley is a rift valley, or a graben in technical terms, formed along a fault zone between two mountain ranges. As the mountains were thrust up by tectonic forces, the valley dropped between them, several thousand feet. The two mountain ranges have since filled the valley up with eroded debris.

The shallow Lake Manly filled the basin a few thousand years ago. As the climate of the area changed and became more desert like, the lake dried up. Its briny waters left a deep deposit of salt behind, which brings us to today’s post. The Devil’s Golf Course is located a short 10 miles away from Bad Water Basin, which, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point on the North American continent. Water that drains into the Basin melts the salt and becomes undrinkable, thus the name. The Devil’s Golf Course is several feet higher and avoids the melting water. Instead, capillary action pulls salty subsurface water up creating the crystalline structures that the area is famous for.

Peggy and I caught the area at a particularly good time for photography, which surprised me, given the location of the overhead sun. Anyway, here are the results.

This close up provides a view of the crystalline structures developed by the capillary action. BTW, they are composed of 95% table salt. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I took this photo looking east toward the Amargosa Range.
Looking southwest along the Panamint Range.
Peggy photographing the Devil’s Golf Course provides a perspective on the size of the crystalline structures.
A final shot of the Devil’s Golf Course backed up by the Panamint Range. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT POST: A ghostly reminder of Death Valley’s past, and more.

33 thoughts on “The Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley… An Interlude

    • Laughing. I think the answer, Craig, might be to not have so much drop-dead beautiful scenery. She takes her revenge in the summer however when temperatures can climb over 120 F. –Curt

    • The answer is yes, Gerard. Rock salt can be found in deposits around the world. Australia must have its share. 🙂
      It can get hot in the summer. World records have been set. But the desert can get cold in the winter. I think it was in the high 50s/low 60s F. Quite comfortable. –Curt

    • We are working on the ‘lost wages’ part, M.B. 🙂
      I mentioned that Death Valley is a geologist’s dream. It is also a photographer’s dream. Thanks. Peggy and I highly recommend that people visit Death Valley and do so in the spring, winter, or fall. –Curt

  1. In 1995 I took a coach tour of the National Parks and enjoyed every stop. Yellowstone, Arches, Mesa Verde, Zion etc. The tour ended in Las Vegas and I hated every moment of it. I put it down to the sudden culture shock and the fact that I went home with food poisoning from a dodgy hotel buffet.

    • There certainly is a contrast, Andrew. We enjoy the “Pleasure Palaces,” if for no other reason than to admire the fantasies they create. They come at an expensive price tag, however. Las Vegas does make a convenient location to enjoy the surrounding area. You might even find a UFO or two lurking in the area. 🙂 –Curt

  2. I’m both awed and slightly unnerved by this barren alien landscape … I’ve never imagined a desert like this. It looks nearly impossible to wander out over the rough ground.Thanks for sharing the superb photos and some of the history … and have a great trip! 😀

    • Imagine, Annika, being an early pioneer and coming upon Death Valley as something you had to get across! By stepping carefully, you can walk out among the salt pillars. Care is called for, however. Nasty cuts are a possibility! And thank you. We are enjoying our little escape. –Curt

  3. Perhaps we’ll be heading to the SW as you think about resting from all this wandering. No solid schedule set just yet, but we have a hankering for the Bosque del Apache… Lovely rain here (finally). Hoping this storm sticks around for awhile.

  4. Wonderful shots! My folks have told us stories of great park locations they’ve reached by driving from Las Vegas- about the only thing that could lure me to stay there I think 😉 Thanks for sharing!

    • It was getting later in the day when we drove through Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Dave. So, there is more color on the post that is up now. I’ve been to Death Valley numerous times over the years and have enjoyed it at all times of the day. I’ve even been there in a snow storm. 🙂

  5. These photos are really good. It’s hard to take photos there sometimes, because it gets so bright and everything around you is pale and lacks contrast. I have enjoyed only two visits to Death Valley, but have never seen this spot.

    Another fave place to go is Red Rock Canyon. Have you two hiked out there? I loved it.

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