Devil's Golfcourse
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Stop 13 Devil's Golfcourse
Location: Death Valley National Park, CA.
Date: March 9, 2007

Devil’s Golf Course is located in the Death Valley salt pan, one of the largest salt pans in North America, and is a landscape composed of crystallized salts (primarily sodium chloride or table salt).  Salts were initially deposited by ancient lakes that once filled the valley, but continue to be deposited by recurring floods that occasionally submerge the lowest parts of the valley floor. 


View of Devil’s Golf Course looking south into Death Valley


The water contains dissolved salts and other minerals which precipitate out as the water evaporates.  Over time, the accumulation of these evaporites has produced the salt pinnacles at Devil’s Golf Course.


Close-up views of jagged salt crystals


Salt deposits measure up to 1.5 m thick in some places, blanketing the landscape like snow.  Salt crystals tend to have a jagged or serrated spine-like appearance and their orientation provides evidence of the wind direction at the time of their formation.  Salt crystals typically trend north-south, parallel to the prevailing wind direction in the valley, but continue to be shaped by winds and occasional rainfall.  On warm days, it may be possible to hear a metallic cracking sound as the salt pinnacles expand and contract. 


Horizontal layering of salt deposits


While salt crystals in various stages of development are present at Devil’s Golf Course, there are also areas which tend to be browner in color, indicating places where salt crystals are absent.  The irregular polygonal pattern which characterizes the floor of the saltpan is also visible.  Small gaps occur where polygons meet, with higher ridges of salt forming along these cracks.


Salt deposition is concentrated along the edges of the polygons, forming higher ridges in those areas



By Jennifer Mikolajczyk