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Interesting Facts About Moving Rocks in Death Valley California

A botany graduate, Nithya Venkat enjoys researching and writing about topics that interest her.


The Race Track Playa in Death Valley, California, in the United States of America is a place of strange and unique geological occurrences. Rocks move slowly over the vast lands leaving trails behind. This place has been under scrutiny since 1940. Researchers have recorded the slow movements of rocks and examined their trails.

About Racetrack Playa, California

Racetrack Playa is 3608 feet above sea level. It is 4.5 Km long north to south, 2 Km wide east to west. The surface area is about 7 sq Km. The Racetrack Playa is an endorheic basin with Cottonwood Mountains on the east and the Nelson Range to the west.

The climate in Racetrack Playa is arid with no vegetation. A few inches (3 - 4) of rain falls in a year. When there is heavy rainfall, water from the mountains surrounding the Playa gushes down onto the flatland forming a temporary lake. This water escapes into the cracks and crevices on the flatland, forming a shallow endorheic lake for a short time.

During summertime, the water evaporates, leaving behind cracks and crevices that almost look like hexagons, and some of the water finds its way deep down into the earth.

An endorheic basin allows no outflow of water into the sea or rivers. The water that falls in this area is trapped in cracks and crevices. This water evaporates or seeps deep down into the earth. The endorheic basin is also called an internal drainage system.

The Racetrack is dry around the year. During the dry season, you can see hexagonal shapes of dry cracks on the surface.

The mystery of the moving rocks

The mystery of the moving rocks

The Amazing Geographical Phenomenon – The Sailing Rocks

Racetrack Playa is a place where a strange geological phenomenon occurs from time to time. The rocks in Racetrack Playa move slowly across the flatland leaving behind track marks. These rocks weigh more than 100 pounds.

Smooth rocks leave flat, slippery trails, whereas the rocks with rough edges leave behind striated tracks. The rocks move only once in two to three years. These rocks move in pairs or by themselves. Some trails lead to huge rocks, and some disappear without a trace.

The tracks are about ten to a hundred feet long and 3-12 inches wide. These rocks are either dolomite rocks from the mountains or igneous rocks.

There are a few explanations as to why exactly these rocks move without any human or animal intervention.

1. The moisture between the cracks and crevices make the mud smooth and slippery. This makes it easier for the rocks to move when there are high-speed winds.

2. During the rainy season, the water seeps into the cracks, and crevices are chilled to form long stretches of ice sheets. This, combined with the force of the wind, helps the rocks to move across slowly.

Racetrack Playa is researched and studied by NASA with great interest because it resembles the dried lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan.

The search is still on to find out what exactly is happening to solve the mystery of the moving rocks in Racetrack Playa.


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© 2012 Nithya Venkat


Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 28, 2019:

Thank you for taking the time to read and for your lovely comments.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 27, 2019:

This is an interesting and informative article about the moving rocks.

I have heard about it from some of my relatives, who have visited this place.

Thanks for sharing the details in this well written article with excellent pictures.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on July 17, 2013:

Elias Zanetti yes it is so fascinating and mysterious!

Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on July 16, 2013:

Informative and fascinating hub, Vellur! This is quite an interesting mystery case that I haven't heard before.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 12, 2013:

Cyndi10 thank you and I wish someone would see them move and take a video of it. It would be great!!

Cynthia B Turner from Georgia on June 12, 2013:

Fascinating phenomenon. None of the theories seem to be the answer. I guess you should never use those boulders as landmarks. LOL. Very strange. Funny that no one has ever seen them move. Good hub and videos attached.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 04, 2013:

Stephanie Henkel thank you and am happy you enjoyed reading. I wish someone could get to see and record the moving rocks!!

Stephanie Henkel from USA on March 04, 2013:

Death Valley has so many interesting and beautiful places, but this one is quite a mystery! I've been to see these moving rocks, but haven't heard all of the theories that you presented on why they've moved. I enjoyed your interesting and informative hub!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 12, 2012:

MartieCoetser thank you, must be interesting out at your place. Sometimes this seems so spooky, specially if we see the second video.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on December 12, 2012:

What an interesting phenomenon! Similar down here, but not due to the same conditions, is roaring sand dunes. Thanks for this interesting hub about the walking rocks in the Death Valley, vellur :)

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on November 10, 2012:

Mama Kim you should go see it if you can!! Thank you for stopping by.

Aloe Kim on November 10, 2012:

I used to live somewhat close to there! I had no idea ^_^ thank you for sharing this! Voting up and interesting ^_^

azure_sky from Somewhere on the Beach, if I am lucky :) on November 04, 2012:

The pleasure was all mine (along with many others), I assure you!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on November 04, 2012:

azure sky, I was so fascinated by this amazing phenomenon that I wanted to share this with you all. Thank you for stopping by and your votes.

azure_sky from Somewhere on the Beach, if I am lucky :) on November 03, 2012:

Thanks so much for putting this all together to share with us! Vote up, and 3 more "clicks"...fascinating!!!!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on October 23, 2012:

Wow you have driven there, how awesome can that be!!You should go back if you can, I guess it must be great. Thank you.

RTalloni on October 23, 2012:

So interesting to read about these rocks! I drove through the desert years ago and always wondered what it would be like to go back and explore. Imagining all the secrets Death Valley holds is mind-boggling. The first video makes perfect sense. The winds and temperatures there can be savage.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on October 18, 2012:

I wonder when this mystery will be solved!! This is a real mystery. Thank you for the vote.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on October 18, 2012:

This info new to me and of course fascinating. Can we ever unravel the mysteries of nature totally? I don't think so.

Voted up/interesting.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on October 10, 2012:

ishwaryaa22 am glad you came to know about this amazing phenomenon. Thanks for the vote and sharing too.

Angie Jardine, thanks for stopping by and the vote. I wish I could see it too!!

Angie Jardine from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... on October 10, 2012:

Fascinating! Makes me want to go and watch them …

Voted up, Vellur.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani from Chennai, India on October 10, 2012:

An engaging and well-explained hub! This is the first time I have heard about moving rocks thanks to you! Nature have its many unexplained mysteries! Well-done!

Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Interesting. Voted up & shared on Facebook

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on October 09, 2012:

billybuc,it is really fascinating. I wish someone in the near future capture the movement on video. It must be awesome to watch. Thank you.

Jackie Lynnley, yes, some just disappear. I wonder what really happens, thank you.

Chris very interesting!! Thank you for the vote.

Ruchira thank you and it is a WOW phenomenon!!

teaches12345 thank you, the video is great to watch and the sailing rocks awesome!!!

Mhatter99 thank you for stopping by, have a great day.

Eiddwen thank you, it is certainly gripping to read about this.

Eiddwen from Wales on October 09, 2012:

Well written and certainly gripping.


Martin Kloess from San Francisco on October 08, 2012:

Heard about these. Thank you for sharing.

Dianna Mendez on October 08, 2012:

What an interesting hub and I learned something new today. I watched the last video with awe! Fascinating!

Ruchira from United States on October 08, 2012:

Wow...was not aware of science being involved in it...thanks for an informative hub, nithya.

Chris Merritt from Pendleton, Indiana on October 08, 2012:

Huh! Now THAT IS very interesting!

Voted that way too!

Up and interesting!


Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on October 08, 2012:

This was so interesting! So we know how some move but to disappear? ! Ew...

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 08, 2012:

It really is a fascinating phenomena; thanks for the explanation. Great hub!

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