You only have a few weeks for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kayak a lake in the hottest place on Earth.

Lake Manly Death Valley 02-09-2024

Michael Kohler/National Park Service

If you’ve ever wanted to kayak in the hottest place on Earth, your opportunity is right now. Thanks to floodwater from recent storms, there is currently a large, shallow lake over the usual salt flat of Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park in California—also the driest place in North America. 

“You might think with no drain to the sea, that Death Valley would always have a lake,” says park ranger Abby Wines in a statement. “But this is an extremely rare event. Normally the amount of water flowing in is much less than the evaporation rate.”

Badwater Basin, the lowest elevation point in North America at 282 feet below sea level, actually started filling up in August during Hurricane Hilary. Since then, the region, which normally sees 2 inches of rainfall a year, was hit with nearly 5 inches in just six months, according to the National Park Service. Now the temporary lake, known as Lake Manley, is about 6 miles long, 3 miles wide, and 1 foot deep, but it will likely only be deep enough to kayak for just a few weeks. 

Badwater Basin Sign Death Valley

Kristina Skilling/National Park Service

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“The lake was deep enough to kayak for a few weeks after Hurricane Hilary, but unfortunately people couldn’t come enjoy it then,” says Wines. “Every road in the park was damaged by flash floods, and it took two months to open the first road into the park. Now most of the main roads are open, so it’s a great time to come visit.”

Lake Manly is actually a reference to an ancient lake of the same name that filled Badwater Basin tens of thousands of years ago. When the original Lake Manly evaporated, it left behind sediments and salt deposits, resulting in the stunning pattern of geometric cracks the landscape usually reveals. 

But right now, you’ll find a clear, serene body of water reflecting blue skies and snow capped peaks. Wildflowers are beginning to bloom, and you might spot the Mojave desert tortoise, a species near extinction. Even if you can’t make it in time to kayak, park rangers believe the shallow lake will still create beautiful reflections through April.

Lake Manly Death Valley Snowy Mountain Reflection

Kristina Skilling/National Park Service

If you are planning on making the trek for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we have a few Death Valley travel tips to keep in mind. Most importantly, bring lots and lots of water. It’s going be dry, and Lake Manly is salty. If you do plan on kayaking, you’ll have to bring your own. There are no kayaks to rent in the park, but the good news is you can basically drive right up to the lake. Pack it in and pack it out, and don’t take any “souvenirs.” While it may be tempting to bring home a memento, removing anything from the natural state could disrupt the ecosystem. And get there early. It’s worth beating the crowds.

For more information and active alerts, follow the Death Valley National Park Service on social media and check their website