The Sailing Stones of Racetrack Playa


Death Valley is located between California and Nevada and is known to be the hottest, driest place in the world. Including its name, Death Valley is very unique compared to other national parks. One of the oddest features of this park are the sailing stones.

The sailing stones of Racetrack Playa are stones that appear to move by themselves. The rocks are made of dolomite and syenite, two different types of mineral. They tumble down from the surrounding mountains and when they reach the ground, they start to move horizontally. Though, one cannot see the movement of the stones, the conspicuous tracks they leave behind are evident enough to show that they have traveled across the desert.

In August 2014, scientists Richard D. Norris and his cousin James M. Norris figured out the “magic” behind the these sailing stones. First, it rains. The rain forms a small pond behind the rock that freezes overnight. By morning, most of the ice melts, leaving only a thin sheet. Later, the wind pushes the ice against the rock. After years, the rock slowly moves. In fact, it only moves a few inches every two years.

Even though a person cannot actually watch the rocks travel, they are still a wonderful sight to see. To find these stones, one can drive two miles south from the Grandstand parking area, then walk about half a mile to the south-east corner of the playa.

Of course there are people who vandalize this natural phenomenon. They move the rocks, drive on the trails, and even write on the rocks. If you do ever visit, please be mindful of the stones and this natural wonder.

[Sources: National Parks; EarthSky]

What an interesting story. Great job, Mariama! – Shoko MiyagiUW-Madison (2019-11-04 10:27)
Very informative! I didn’t know that rocks could move, reading about this process is really cool. It also just reminds you of how unique and special the Earth truly is. – LeilaniMadison Wi (2019-11-04 10:40)
Good job with this article. I always learn something from SSFP articles. – Louise RobbinsMadison (2019-11-04 11:37)
Thanks for writing such a great article Mariama! I can't wait to read what comes next. – LeilaMadison West High School (2019-11-05 11:40)
Wonderful job! Keep it up! – KadjataMadison East High School (2019-11-05 15:12)
This is a well-written article Mariama. Keep up the good work! – Cristian CruzMadison West High School (2019-11-06 16:21)
This article is written very well and has some intriguing facts! Keep up the great work Mariama! – Virginia QuachUW-Madison (2019-11-06 18:35)
Keep up the great work! I enjoyed this indubitably informative article! It's always good to learn new things! – Xavier FaisonMonona Grove High School (2019-11-06 18:37)
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