The Devils Golf Course is a widespread area on the central Death Valley basin where wind and rain has formed unique salt formations on the salt flats. Difficulties encountered when visiting the area include dealing with continuously brutal terrain while working your way slowly through the area, avoiding falls and injuries due to tripping hazards and sharp salt edges, and avoiding damaging delicate salt formations by treading carefully. The NPS recommends: "The Devils Golf Course is best viewed from the parking area. The salt formations are fragile." A historic map of the Devils Golf Course and salt pools general area (Copyright Pacific Coast Borax Company and UNLV Library) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates are not provided as most visitors stay in close vicinity to the parking area.
The Devils Golf Course is more of a tourist sightseeing destination rather than a hiking destination. And I don't really want to promote it as a hiking destination. For one thing because the harsh terrain makes it a horrible place to attempt a hike. But mainly because the salt formations are fragile and can easily be damaged by careless (and even careful) hikers. Every time that I have visited the Devils Golf Course, there have been a number of vehicles in the parking area with tourists fanning out in a circle taking photographs while usually not straying too far away. Thus, much of the damage to the formations occurs in what might be considered an "use area" or zone. In order to see more pristine formations, it is necessary to hike out a little further onto the "course". While I have been to Devils Golf Course countless times, one of the more fascinating aspects of the area to me personally is the presence of salt pools. Salt pools used to be a normal occurrence in the area, so much so that the gravel road leading to the parking area has always been known as Salt Pool Road. But even a long time ago, the salt pools apparently would close up and disappear at times. Being less concerned with environmental impact many decades ago, the NPS would blast open new salt pools with dynamite when necessary (see sample picture here). However, in the 1980s the last of the natural salt pools dried up (or were covered over by a layer of salt). The salt pools were just a faint memory for long-time Death Valley visitors for the next couple of decades. Then, after the record rains of 2004-2005 and the flooding of Badwater Basin, three salt pools were located in the late Spring of 2005. Two were on the salt flats nearby at an unpublished location (see second sample picture below), but these salted over after the next couple of summers. The larger salt pool was located just a few hundred feet south of Devils Golf Course parking lot, and it remained fully visible for about seven years. Many park visitors came across this large salt pool and took photographs of it. As of October 2012, it was found to be 90% salted over with just a small portion of open salt water visible. In March of 2018, I returned to this area to check on the current status of the salt pools. I had determined through my research the location of at least four salt pools and wanted to check on them to see if salt water was still visible at any of them. The salt pools were scattered out in various directions from the parking lot, so it would not be easy to reach them. Visiting the salt pools kind of forced me to do an exploration of the area, which led to walking through varied terrain and seeing different salt formations. I found the walking to be extremely challenging and frustrating at times. It was very slow going. But I managed to visit all four salt pools and I stumbled across a fifth pool along the way. Three of the five salt pools were completely salted over. The other two had very small holes in them, but salt water was visible below the surface. So I was able to confirm that all five of these were salt pools at one time. As of 2018, there are no known fully-opened salt pools to visit in the Devils Golf Course area. When will new salt pools open again? Based on recent history, it will probably take an unusually high amount of rainfall. Last time, it took a couple of decades before new salt pools opened up. As of the time of writing, it has already been 13 years since new salt pools opened, so hopefully it won't be much longer. During my last visit to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, I was discussing the current status of the salt pools with a staff member. As we talked about hopes of new salt pools opening in the future, she jokingly said "we could always grab the dynamite". It was a funny moment, but half a century earlier it could have been said with all seriousness. Most of the pictures included within this report were taken on January 7, 2007 and March 19, 2018. Two of the photographs (including the second sample picture below) were taken by Alan Van Valkenburg in 2006.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT