Before The Coffee » Photography

Racetrack Playa, Death Valley

Tucked away in a corner of this extraordinary planet there is a place called Racetrack Playa. Large rocks move across the playa leaving behind a trail several hundred yards long. It remains a mystery how these rocks are transported. If I approached the problem analytically (as a geologist that’s what I do) I’d have to realize, the rocks are jagged, sharp and heavy and the surface they move across is flat. What could be the driving force?

Hmm…. maybe wind and some water and the playa gets all slippery and off they go. But, why does one rock have a trail that runs east-west and another has a trail that runs northwest-southeast and they cross! Now the plot thickens, I have to spend the night here and see if I can solve the mystery.


  • JB - November 26, 2012 - 2:45 pm

    Crazy good color in the bottom image. I’ve never seen that before. I so want to get to the Racetrack this year when we go in late Feb. How hard was the journey out there?

    Totally disappointed that you of all people could not solve the mystery! Dang….

    Thanks for your kind comments on my blog. Much appreciated.ReplyCancel

  • Ferrell - November 26, 2012 - 3:05 pm

    John, The journey to Racetrack is a bit challenging. It’s 20 miles of rocky and gullied road. Most is easy passage except for a couple former stream gullies. It is very do-able with a 4-wheel drive that has good ground clearance and very tough tires. You’ll be driving up to 5mph in some parts, 20-30mph in other, the rocks are jagged and hard on tires. My only anxiety was getting a punctured tire.ReplyCancel

  • Anna - January 6, 2013 - 6:09 pm

    Oh! The texture! You’re killin’ me! In a good way…ReplyCancel

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