Death Valley National Park: Racetrack Playa

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Death Valley National Park: Racetrack Playa

[image:NealWellons/flickr] Ubehebe Crater


With a name like Death Valley, you have to expect that some creepy history is bound to show up. Like many other places with sinister sounding names, Death Valley doesn’t disappoint. Located in the southern part of Nevada and California, this National Park is the hottest and driest of all U.S. National Parks. Being below sea level gives it some unique qualities in the changes of scenery that it can provide during wet seasons. From snow on the peaks of mountains and wildflowers brought on by rainstorms to excessive dry landscape and outrageous heat, this place is full of wonders. The scenery is only part of it, when you delve deeper you’ll realize that the surface is a shallow example of the complexities within.

[image:UnknownB&W/flickr] Rock making a 90 degree turn.

[image:UnknownB&W/flickr]
Rock making a 90 degree turn.

Racetrack Playa

While some places clearly have a haunted aspect, others are just plain mysterious. Racetrack Playa falls under the latter category. Lying on the ground of a mostly dried up lake bed, the rocks here seem to have a mind of their own. They don’t stay put; instead they move around, leaving long tracks behind them. These aren’t just pebbles either, some of them are big rocks weighing hundreds of pounds. The tracks they leave behind are linear paths, carved into the ground, often changing directions. This wouldn’t be so disconcerting if the ground weren’t mostly flat.

Over the years many explanations have been presented for this strange phenomenon, but most have been disproven. The idea of magnetic forces was tossed around and even good ‘ol gravity was blamed for a time. Many believed that people or animals were moving the rocks, but if that were the case there would have been footprints. Wind was thought to be the driving force that moved them. But how could wind move a 300-pound rock?

[image:Ben/flickr] Ice on Racetrack Playa

[image:Ben/flickr]
Ice on Racetrack Playa

The answer is thought to have been found. In wet seasons the playa ground can acquire up to 3 inches of water. Once in a blue moon this water freezes over. This sheet of ice and the thin layer of water that the Rock sits on provides a sliding surface. Add strong winds to the equation and you have moving rocks. As the water dries up it exposes the path the rock took on its journey. Sometimes they travel over 300 feet. This is the most recent explanation, documented by video. Is there more to it that can’t be explained? Maybe an invisible force likes to have some fun by pushing rocks around and confusing people.

[image:MichaelLeggero/flickr] Racetrack Playa

[image:MichaelLeggero/flickr]
Racetrack Playa

This is but one of the mysteries that Death Valley holds. This place is so vast that there are a multitude of creepy and interesting places to explore.

 

Information From
https://www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm
http://geology.com/articles/racetrack-playa-sliding-rocks.shtml
Haunted Hikes: Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America’s National Parks by Andrea Lankford

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