Mesquite Dunes: the dunes at sunrise after a night of wind erased most of the footprints

Day four in Death Valley we left early from Emigrant Campground and headed to the Mesquite dunes before sunrise. Strong winds last night erased hundreds of footprints for fairly untrammeled sand. The sand dunes here are located between the mountains, so the wind just blows the sand in a big eddy and recreates the dunes after every windstorm.

Parking along the road, away from the main parking lot, means fewer people in the field of view. The sand here is darker and has a more reddish color compared to the sand dunes on the Oregon Coast. The primary source of the dune sands is probably the Cottonwood Mountains which lie to the north and northwest. The tiny grains of quartz and feldspar that form the sinuous sculptures that make up this dune field began as much larger pieces of solid rock. Ripples in the sand are formed by the wind, the roughness of the grains of sand helps to form the ripples. This dune field is thought to be about 2,000 years old. It sits on five to seven kilometers of alluvial fill, the thickest alluvial fill in Death Valley.

Mesquite Dunes in the morning near Stovepipe WellsMesquite Dunes: the dunes after sunrise and a night of wind to erase most of the footprints

 

Patterns in the sand, at Mesquite Dunes

The wind started to increase in speed again a little after sunrise, with sand blowing along the dunes and off the edges of the higher dunes. After climbing up and down dunes for a couple of hours it was time to move on.

Wind blown sand at the Mesquite DunesMesquite Dunes: the dunes at sunrise after a night of wind erased most of the footprints

Leaving the dunes we drove to Stovepipe Wells for a shower, well worth the $4. We then had breakfast before driving the short distance to Mosaic Canyon. Mosaic Canyon is a canyon carved by water, out of rock with a lot of marble that has been eroded and polished over the years.

Marble in Mosaic Canyon

Rock in Mosaic Canyon

Eroded into the next layer, a chunk of marble is missing here almost like it popped out.

Eroded marble in Mosaic Canyon

This was in the first narrow section, scrambling over the marble was a challenge due to how smooth and slick it was. Sometimes you had to get a running start, going downhill was easier, just sit and slide.

Eroded marble in the middle of the canyon wash

Next we headed north to Ubehebe Crater and then to the Racetrack.