On our first leg of our trip before we get to Tucson, we’ve been searching out some famous Halite regions in California! A lot of the pink and white Halite we buy for the shop comes from this region, particularly the Searles Lake area near Death Valley, and we thought it would be interesting to show you where your crystals came from!
As you approach Searles Lake driving up from Los Angeles, you soon start seeing white shimmering flats in the bottom of the valleys, which could be mistaken for snow from a distance, were it not warm here even in January. The lake itself is privately owned for mining Halite and Borax, and is a hub of industrial activity so we couldn’t get very close unfortunately, but the huge expanse of shimmering white stretched for miles. The gates to the salt lake are only open once a year, for the local mineral society’s Gem-O-Rama, and hundreds of visitors descend on the sleepy town of Trona to dig Halite crystals.
Pure Halite crystals are a bright white, but the desirable pink ones are actually coloured pink by the remains of dead salt loving (halophilic) bacteria, who when they die leave a dark red pigment behind which will slowly mount up over the summer and turn the brine pools red. This means you can find Halite in shades of light pink all the way through to a deep magenta! Blue/green Halite can also be found occasionally, as a result of a different bacteria. The Halite crystals can be found up to 2 inches across, and grow best when still submerged in the brine pools, as when the brine evaporates they have no more solution to continue their growth.
We also made the trip down to Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at 282ft below sea level. It is a massive salt flat stretching out far into the desert, and can only exist because of the incredibly dry climate - otherwise water would flood it. The extremely dry climate allows any water to evaporate, leaving behind salt flats and strongly salty (briny) lakes. Less large crystallised Halite can be found here, partly due to the lack of water but also due to the fact that the main route is well trampled by people visiting the national park, and treading on the fragile crystals. However lots of tiny sparkling cubic crystals can be seen glinting in the sun and embedded into the salty floor.