One of the greatest wonders of Death Valley, to me at least, is Salt Creek, where the valley’s geology pushes to the surface a small ribbon of reliable, if salty water.
Flanked by a little border of grass and pickleweed, its valley dusted white chemical white with evaporative depsits, Salt Creek runs between hills of utterly bare gravel and stone, flowing below sea level from source to its end in the Cottonball Basin playa.
Tucki Mountain’s canyon-ridden flanks soar almost seven thousand feet above.
Though they weren’t active on this winter visit, in spring Salt Creek teems with one of the world’s unlikeliest creatures, Cyprinodon salinus, the Salt Creek pupfish.
Cut off from the greater world of water by the drying of the Pleistocene lakes and rivers, the pupfish survive in their refuge, if refuge is the appropriate term for a few miles of creek whose water approaches 100 degrees in summer and is saltier than the ocean, a scrawl of life through one of the harshest deserts on earth.