North America’s Lowest Point on Land is Now a Lake

Record setting rain both this year and last year is bringing back ancient lakes, albeit temporarily, to some areas of California. Last year, Tulare Lake in the Central Valley re-emerged after heavy rains. Dating back to the Pleistocene Era, Tulare Lake had been drained to make way for farmland starting in the 1870s.

The lake now exists as a seasonal body of water, occasionally making an appearance whenever the Tulare basin floods. In the last 55 years, Tulare Lake has refilled in 1969, 1983, 1997, and 2023. A massive pumping effort by property owners affected by flooding 2023 has held off the lake’s reappearance in 2024 despite record breaking rain.

Badwater Basin becomes a temporary lake

This year, the ancient California lake making the news for reappearing a lake that reformed over Badwater Basin. Badwater Basin in Death Valley is typically known for being the lowest point on land in North America. A dried out lake bed of salt flats, Badwater Basin’s lowest point is 282 ft (86 m) below sea level.

The tail end of Hurricane Hillary dropped 2.2 inches of rain on August 20, 2023 at Badwater Basin. Typically Death Valley, also known for being one of the driest and hottest places in the United States, receives only 2 inches (51 millimeters) of rain in an entire year.

The pluvial lake is informally known as  “Lake Manly”. The endorheic lake persisted into winter, refilling back up when an atmospheric river between February 4 and 7, 2024 brought another 1.5 inches of precipitation. Lake Manly reached depths of about 12-20 inches across the basin floor.

Lake Manly’s original existence dates back tens of thousands of years according to the National Park Service, having existed 186,000 years to 120,000 years ago and again 35,000 to 10,000 years ago. Glacial Lake Manly was an endorheic lake that once measured 100 miles long and 600 feet deep — the evaporation of water and no drainage out of the lake over thousands of years led to the buildup of salts that make up the floor of Badwater Basin today.

Lake Manly, then referred to as Lake Badwater by NASA, also temporarily re-emerged in February of 2005 after an usually high period of precipitation. The lake persisted across the floor of Badwater Basin until about May of that year.


Doermann, L., & Liang, W. (2024, February 16). Badwater basin refills. NASA Earth Observatory.

Wines, A., & Lamar, M. (2024, March 4). Rare opportunity to kayak in Death Valley National Park.


Fonte : National Geographic