Sailing stones of Racetrack Playa, a mysterious phenomenon

The sailing stones of Racetrack Playa have puzzled many for nearly a century. Here's the explanation behind this mysterious phenomenon.

Mysterious Rock Trails

What are the sailing stones?

Located in Racetrack Plata, a dry lake in Death Valley National Park, the sailing stones are a geographical phenomenon where rocks move without human or animal intervention and create long tracks behind them. The natural event was first observed by prospector Joseph Crook in 1915 when he visited from Nevada. Geologists Jim McAllister and Allen Agnew published a report about the sliding rocks in the Geologic Society of America Bulletin, drawing the attention of several naturalists. Since then they have been researched for the last several years by scientists and publications including Life magazine.

Despite the mystery, some visitors do not respect the importance of this phenomenon. In recent years, there has been both theft and vandalism of the sailing rocks and their trails. In 2013, some were stolen and never recovered. In 2016, one of the rocks had initials carved into them and the area was covered with tire tracks, ruining the natural tracks. However, the tire tracks have since been cleaned by volunteers. Today, there are over thirty rocks still out there and occasionally moving every so often.

How do they move?

The answer was determined back in 2014. This movement of the rocks occurs because of a layer of ice that is created by intense winter rainfall and freezing night temperatures. Then the ice melts into large sheets of ice that float on puddles of water. This exposes the rock and ice sheets to incredibly strong winds that drag and the rocks move up to 5 meters per minute. This defied previous research done by geologist George Stanley when he wrote in his 1955 paper that the stones were too heavy to be moved by winds. However, climate change may affect the number of times this phenomenon occurs as there has already been a decline in the sailing stone movement since the 1990s, making the sailing stones even more special.


03/07/2020 2:30 PM


  • Walter G.
    03/12/2020 13:01

    Is just what we not know including S 19

  • Inës S.
    03/10/2020 02:27

    Mother Nature is simply amazing 😉

  • Kane A.
    03/08/2020 07:37

    This was solved over 30 years ago.

  • April M.
    03/08/2020 06:30

    I knew it was Cali & the desert. Aliens live below & their daily routines vibration or the frequency they cause , going to Vegas I always say ok I'm over the alien city. Just a feeling since the first time I went to Vegas I was 10-11

  • Axel D.
    03/07/2020 20:17

    1/3 of the angels who left heaven are idle and have nothing better to do so this is just their routine idle work.....

  • Michael C.
    03/07/2020 13:59

    could this be due to climate sure there is a way we could blame it on that.....or hey.....maybe we could find a handful of barmy scientists and get them to make up some damning report on it...

  • Jonathan M.
    03/07/2020 13:47

    OK, 3 to 4 meters per minute? How could you miss such a blatant error? And of course global warming? You've just figured out how it works and you haven't even observed it for a couple of decades, but you're sure the reason it has varied in that short time is... global warming. Are you even scientists if you can't realize 3 to 4 meters per minute was ridiculous?

  • Sue F.
    03/07/2020 10:34

    Has anyone ever taken a pic from above of the patterns the lines make?

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