The Actual Lowest Point is one of three spots located on Badwater Basin which register a confirmed reading of -282 feet in elevation, thus making it the lowest spot in North America. Difficulties encountered on the hike include making sure to carry out the hike during cooler weather when it is safe and correctly operating a GPS device because that is the only way to find the Lowest Point. A topographical map of the general area can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the Actual Lowest Point of minus 282 feet which is located 3.4 miles northwest of Badwater are 36° 14.515'N, 116° 49.535'W.
Leading up to our March 2008 trip, one of the destinations which was at the top of my priorities list in Death Valley was the hike to the Actual Lowest Point. For the sake of those who are reading this trip report but have not visited Death Valley very much, let me explain a few things which will tell you why this destination is so important. As you might be able to guess, the lowest spot on the planet is the shoreline of the Dead Sea, which is a salt lake in between Israel to the west and Jordan to the east. Current estimates (as of 2015) put the elevation of the Dead Sea shoreline at -1,407 feet, (or 1,407 feet below sea level.) However, the Dead Sea is dropping down at a rate of about 3 feet per year, which it has been doing for the past 50 years or so. This means that the lowest point on earth continues to get lower by 1 foot every four months. In fact, the quickly outdated sign at Badwater states that the Dead Sea shoreline is located at -1,360 feet. Moving over to Death Valley National Park, there are 2-3 spots on the Badwater Basin salt flats which register -282 feet, (or 282 feet below sea level.) The reason this is important is that this happens to be the lowest spot in North America. Up until recent times, it was thought that it was also the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere. But then it was figured out that the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere is actually Laguna Del Carbon in Argentina. Laguna Del Carbon translates to Coal Lagoon and the shoreline of that salt lake is located at -344 feet. As you can imagine, it is quite a thrill to walk out to the exact spot which is the Lowest Point and know you are standing on the lowest spot of North America. The problem is that this spot is not easy to find or get to, for most people at least. The casual tourist who arrives in Death Valley planning to visit the lowest spot probably drives their car out to Badwater, parks in the parking lot, and walks down the stairway and across the boardwalk to the Badwater sign. The sign there sometimes reads "Badwater Basin -282 feet". (Keep in mind that the Badwater sign appears to change every five years or so and alternate between reading -280 feet and -282 feet for some odd reason.) What that tourist doesn't realize is that they are not standing at the Actual Lowest Point, they are really standing at -280 feet. To find the Actual Lowest Point, they would have needed to hike out across the salt flats 3.4 miles to get to it. The GPS coordinates for the Actual Lowest Point -282 feet are posted above in the Overview section. Armed with the correct GPS coordinates, Daria and I set out at the Badwater parking lot one hot morning to find the Actual Lowest Point. And sure enough, our GPS led us right to it. When we got there, we took photos with the 2 markers which were there at that time. These were the -282 rock and the Actual Lowest Point plaque. When we were finished, we wrapped the plaque back up in the plastic bag and left it on the salt for the next visitor to discover. (2010 update -- since the time of writing, the plaque was likely washed away in a flood, but the rock remains.) (2013 update -- the original -282 rock is now gone but another rock is in its place.) A park visitor informed me of rumors that back in the 1940s, the USGS placed actual benchmarks on poles at three locations with a confirmed reading of -282 feet. But nobody in modern times has ever stumbled across one of these, so we have no way of confirming whether or not they still exist. Our hike took place on March 25, 2008.
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