A bit of visual perspective on the “sailing stones” or “moving rocks” at the southern end of the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley. The area with these rocks is only about 5-10% of the 2.7 square miles of ancient dry lake bed. The area with the stones and trails are about a 1/2 mile walk from the southernmost parking area.
As mentioned towards the end of the Day 2 Trip Summary, I ran into a group of photographers from Southern California that know each other and travel to various locations, primarily for night photography. One of the shots I took was towards the end of our time shooting the stones with 3 of the photographers chatting while a 4th is still a distance away still shooting from ground level. Their Instagram links are: Eric, Bill, Todd, alstiger.
Location & Geology Notes: The Racetack Playa is located in the northwest side of Death Valley, commonly accessible by high-clearance vehicles (SUVs, Jeeps, pick-up trucks) via the 27 mile dirt road from Ubehebe Crater. While normally dry, water does accumulate during heavy rainstorms. As a endoheic basin, there is no outlet for the water. Quickly the water evaporates and leave behind a layer of slick mud before further evaporation/drying results in the mud shrinking and cracking into the mosaic patterns the playa is known for.
Recently the mystery of the sailing stones may have finally been solved. When the lake bed collects water and freezes over, the cracking and break-up of the ice sheets can be pushed along with a small breeze, enough to move the rocks on the playa. An article of the rocks’ movement is detailed here.
EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO100, 30mm, f/16, 1/3 sec
Death Valley (CA), Sailing Stone, Trail, Photographers, Monochrome. Racetrack Playa, Death Valley, CA. November 26, 2016. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.