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


  • Richard J.
    12/03/2020 15:54

    Ice particles from the much colder nights along with winds, no mystery here!!

  • Elisa F.
    11/28/2020 05:59

    Not really, it's the wind

  • Chriss T.
    11/17/2020 08:58

    It’s not a mystery , rain and wind move them

  • Tamie P.
    11/16/2020 16:30

    Thats patricks pet.

  • Andrew C.
    11/11/2020 18:34

    It’s wind and water simple

  • Hans L.
    11/10/2020 10:06

    The rocks moves 3-4 meters per minute? Meaning it moves fairly fast, is it not?

  • Dale M.
    11/08/2020 13:51

    Global warming, another mysterious phenomenon 😆

  • Tom K.
    11/05/2020 02:24

    3 to 4 meters per minute ?!? Tats fast~

  • Mark A.
    11/03/2020 16:09

    Is that rocky?

  • Terrie P.
    11/02/2020 02:37

    Or it could be like that heavy old cast iron bathtub on my parents place. Over the past 40 years its been moved numerous times by family or friends only to return to its original location within a few days. We made peace with the fact that there are things just better left alone.

  • Rob M.
    10/28/2020 17:08

    Its been explained. They move when the night Temps drop below freezing and a thin layer of ice appears. Once that happens wind is actually able to move the stones. There's an episode of NASA's unexplained mysteries that covers it. They do a much better job of explaining it though.

  • Dario K.
    10/26/2020 19:55

    Ne krece se kamenje vec zemlja ispod

  • Dorothy W.
    10/25/2020 19:23

    Wow 😳🇨🇦

  • Manju S.
    10/25/2020 16:27

    Nature is pure but the varying temp has lead to disaster of environment

  • Clyde C.
    10/25/2020 10:52

    Ugh finally!

  • Bandu
    10/25/2020 10:20

    why that rock move but ur camera doesnt? it awkward

  • Bronisław W.
    10/25/2020 08:50

    "the rocks only move 3 to 4 meters per minute". Only? That's very fast! And how it was measured?

  • Ra V.
    10/25/2020 08:26

    it was spongebob.

  • Costel I.
    10/25/2020 06:22

    Wow 🤔🤔🤔🤔

  • Michael T.
    10/24/2020 16:41

    Its the second coming of tell us to smarten up he's gonna knock the whole furking planet into shape