Dead Sea

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

Dead Sea, Israel

The Dead Sea, which lies between Israel and Jordan, is currently about 30 miles long, 9 miles wide at its widest point, and 990 feet deep. The Jordan River feeds into the Dead Sea, which has no outlet.

Two superlatives are associated with the Dead Sea. One, the surface of the Dead Sea, which lies 1,418 feet below the sea level, is the lowest point on the earth's surface. Two, the Dead Sea is the earth's saltiest body of water. Its 34% salt content is ten times more salty than the ocean and precludes marine life, hence its name, although in the Bible, it is also referred to as the "Valley of Siddim" (Genesis 14:3), the "Sea of Arabah, the Salt Sea" (Deuteronomy 3:17, Joshua 3:16), and the "eastern sea" (Joel 2:20).

In recent years, the water level of the Dead Sea has been receding at an alarming rate, due mainly to the water of the Jordan River being diverted by both Israel and the country of Jordan for human and farming uses. Had the above photograph of the Dead Sea, taken from Masada, been taken a decade or two earlier, more of the dry lake bed in the foreground would have been still covered by the Dead Sea's blue water. Many resort hotels built on its former shore either have closed or now drive their guests, many by using tractors, across the dry lake bed to the receding shoreline.

Travel Tip
Dead Sea's salt content makes its water extremely buoyant and viscous. Diving into or trying to swim in what feels like liquid rubber are not advised. Recommended activities include floating and bathing in its mud, preferably before or after the scorching midday sun.

The formerly popular Dead Sea beach at Ein Gedi has closed due to dangerous sink holes caused by the receding water. Ein Bokek near the southern tip of the Dead Sea and Kalia Beach (below) near its northern tip remain open, at least for now.

Dead Sea Kalia Beach

A trip to the Dead Sea is often combined with a visit to Qumran Caves near Kalia Beach, and/or Masada, which is near Ein Bokek. Kalia Beach is closer to Jerusalem, charges a fee, and requires a hike from the entrance down to the waterline (above).