Death Valley National Park is a
protected desert region with an area
of 2,067,628 acres. It receives less
than 2 inches (5 cm) of rain a year.
Some of the world's highest air
temperatures (134°F/57°C) and
ground temperatures (165°F/74°C)
have been measured there. Within the
park is an area called the Racetrack
A playa is a nearly level area at
the bottom of an undrained desert
basin that is sometimes temporarily
covered with water.
mysterious sliding boulders are found.

There are trails showing that boulders up to 705
pounds (320 kg) have moved large distances
over flat terrain.
No one has actually seen these boulders move.
What is causing these
boulders to move?
sliding is clearly out of the question.
The Racetrack Playa is incredibly flat,
so much so, that on a calm day only 2
inches ( 5 cm) of water will entirely
cover the playa.

Some scientists have suggested that
the boulders are blown by strong winds
after a rain. They theorize that the rain
forms a slippery layer of mud that the
boulders can slide on.
One of the unusual things about the
sliding boulders is that the tracks
they make are very similar.
The following diagram shows what the
boulder trails would look like. Note that
the three wiggling boulder tracks
(boulders 1, 2, and 3) look very similar.
Patterns like these would not be
if the wind pushed boulders
of different sizes that were not held in
ice. In that case,
boulders of different
size and shape would be pushed by
the wind at different speeds and the
trails that they would leave would
not be so similar.
Stretching behind many of the stones you'll see
grooved trails. Some are short, some long, some straight,
some curvy. Clearly, these rocks must gouge furrows
as they slide across the playa surface,
yet no living person has ever witnessed
these amazing rocks move!
What makes these rocks skid as much
2890 ft. across the flat playa surface?

It's A Mystery!
Under the hot Death
Valley sun,  
the thin
veneer of water quickly
evaporates, leaving behind
a layer of soft mud. As the
mud dries, it shrinks and
cracks into a mosaic of
interlocking polygons.
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