Bristol Dry Lake

View of a flooded area of Bristol Lake.

Bristol Dry Lake is located in the Mojave Desert 26 miles north of Twentynine Palms in California’s San Bernardino County. The dry lake is located directly south of the town of Amboy. The Old Woman Mountains are to the east and the Bullion Mountains and Amboy Crater are to the west.

It is an endorheic basin, meaning that it is a closed drainage basin that retains water and has no outflow to other bodies of water such as lakes, oceans, or rivers. Rain that falls into an endorheic basin only leaves by seepage or evaporation. Runoff from the nearby mountains have left enormous deposits of salt in the basin.

A closer view of a flooded area of Bristol Lake.

The town of Amboy was founded in 1858 by miners who harvested salt from the dry lake bed. The lake bed is approximately 14 by 12 miles (23km by 20km) in area, and has an estimated 60 million tons of salt in reserve.

The upper layer of the salt body, mixed with some mud composed largely of volcanic ash, is an average of five feet thick. Underneath the salt layer is a layer of clay 8 to 10 feet thick. Below the layer of clay is another layer of salt reported to be 5 feet thick.

Dragon’s Teeth on the dry bed of Bristol Lake.

These photographs were made with a Nikon D200 during a motorcycle ride in March of 2010. The “Dragon’s Teeth” in the photo above are the result of salt mining operations.