Scenic USA - California

Racetrack Playa

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Racetrack Playa - Death Valley National Park, California

Photo by Lynn Radeka
Lynn Radeka Photography
Inset Photo (Badwater Playa) - NPS

     Named after the Mohave Tribe of Native Americans, the Mojave Desert is located in southeastern California and reaches into the nearby states of Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Death Valley National Park, the largest parkland in the lower 48, takes up a large section of the northwest corner of the Mojave Desert. One of the hottest and driest sections of the country, Death Valley contains a diverse land of salt-flats, sand dunes, canyons, mountains and badlands. One of the most distinct finds is a desert lakebed known as a playa.
     Within Death Valley National Park there are two large playas, filled with fine salt-laden sediments. These basins, with no outlet for rainwater to escape, collect mountain runoff, turning the dry, cracked earth into a soft, slippery mud lake. Badwater Playa - Death Valley, CA The most famous lakebed holds the mysterious Racetrack Playa's moving rocks, the subject of debate for decades. Rocks propelled across the desert playa have all the intrigue of a who-done-it. Defying nature, rock trails follow straight line paths, as well as circles and zigzags. Some of the best minds have suggested that these mysterious moving rocks are propelled by extremely high winds over slick surfaces of the wet playa. Aerodynamic forces produce a slight lift, propelling good size borders across the flat desert lakebed. No one has ever seen these rocks move and there are plenty of theories to stir one’s imagination.

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