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The Racetrack in Death Valley – Mysterious Moving Rocks

Mysterious Moving Rocks – Your Theory?

I took this photo last night in a remote part of Death Valley. I’d love to read your thoughts and theories as to why and how these rocks move across the desert on their own! Now, let’s all be sporting about this and NOT use the Google to figure it out… use your mind.

The day in Death Valley was about 115 F (46 C). It wasn’t a dry heat either… there has been a lot of humidity here and there is flash lightning in the day and night. This location here took a lot of time, effort, and 4×4 to find. I took five gallons of water, a map, and some warnings from the place that rented the jeep that this area was inaccessible because of recent road wash-outs from rivers. Well, they were right! So getting the 4×4 over and through the washed out rivers took many more hours than expected. I only suffered one minor injury when my head slammed into the rollbar during a clumsy maneuver. But after I finally found this place I’ve always wanted to visit, it was late afternoon with plenty of time to hike around before night fell.

Here are a few things I noticed which will either be a help or a hindrance in your quest to figure it out:
• When I rapped upon the rock with my knuckle, I felt a faint metallic ting.
• Many rocks were jet-black and heavy with time
• The mud was dry as an old bone, and as I walked across it, I left no footprints behind.
• I walked around without my shoes for a bit, and my feet barely picked up any sand or dirt.  There was a fine white-alkaline powder on my soles, however.
• I never saw the rock move, but I did try something.  In the still of the night, if you put your ear to the ground near the rock, you can hear a distant echo – a trembling sound from deep underground, like heavy chains dragged through the maw of hell.

So what do YOU think causes the rocks to move? Give me your best AND most ludicrous theories!

In the meantime, I’m leaving Death Valley to go to Burning Man, so my internet will be quite limited. The team at StuckInCustoms.com will still be around if you need anything, however. Thanks!

Daily Photo – The Mysterious Rock of Wonder

I look forward to your theories (from the boring to the surreal) of what makes these rocks move across the playa on their own!

The Mysterious Rock of Wonder

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/4
  • ISO1600
  • Focal Length14mm (14mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire, compulsory flash mode
  • Exposure Programmanual
  • Exposure Bias

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  • mtschappat

    What a brilliant photo.

    – Mike Tschappat

  • Eric Pearson

    Well, Trey, I suspect either aliens or Bigfoot. Just kidding. Could it be the planet’s magnetic field?

    How big is the rock in the photo?

  • Mike Sauder

    Fantastic image. I’ve seen this shot so many times, but always during the day. You’re a brave man. Did you sleep there, or drive back in the dark? For the curious, this was a 15 sec exposure at f/4, ISO 1600. 14mm. It’s amazing that the moon gave enough light to give the nice color of the mud at 1:20am! Did you consider trying a higher ISO and smaller aperature? Is the light near the horizon from a town on the other side of the mountains?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=838935242 Peter Tung

    Tiny sand men rise out of the cracks on the ground when no one is around… and pushes the rocks in a race to align the rocks to their gods so that once they align it perfectly… the whole human population gets transformed to sand men.

  • Robert Rath

    My guess is an underground
    water course is tumbling magnetic rocks and over time slowly drags
    anything magnetic at the surface along its course. Ok off to Google now ;-) Oh, gorgeous image Trey by the way!

  • Trevor Seitz

    obviously they are in a different time plane than us, and 1000 years in their time is only a day in ours…

  • Jeff Johnson

    It’s actually part of the training for young aliens who are growing up with their parents over in Area 51 which is not that far away. Moving the rocks on the Racetrack without being detected is the first step in their training. If they complete that successfully then they graduate to crop circles and then cow abductions.

  • Gary Tompkins

    After the market was cornered on Mexican Jumping Beens Mexican farmers looked to expand their horizons with a much larger version called “The Giant Jumping Rock”. The Mexican farmers pooled their resources but still could only afford to manufacture a very small amount of the large rocks that ended up not actually jumping like the beens did but only moved slowly over a long time. Frustrated with their limited production run the farmers soon found that the same market that adored the little been had no such affection for the large, mostly unmoving rocks and finally gathered all they had and secretly dumped them in the desert where they lie today baffling scientists who come from around the world to study them.

  • Larry Mathews

    Rock tracks, crop circles . . . all the same.

    Probably moisture condensation making the mud slick as . . . . and a strong wind, but I haven’t looked it up so I don’t know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/apdepetris April Swan DePetris

    I have no idea what causes the rocks to move but that is an awesome shot! But my best guess would be that the rocks have some metal content and it has to do with some sort of magnetic field.

  • http://www.facebook.com/VickiWilsonPhotography Vicki Wilson

    Very cool image and place! You would need strong winds to move the rocks and maybe mini earthquakes at the same time to get things moving, that’s my guess.

  • ec lundburgh

    Oh that was just me, flying around and tidying things up … guess i missed a few dust-bunnies :>)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=6808525 Daniel McGurk

    Any chance it’s a tank shell from nearby Ft. Irwin, CA? I lived there as a kid and we were very close to Death Valley. Wouldn’t be surprised if that was a firing range at some point. This would also explain the noise you hear when putting your ear to the ground – there are all sorts of military vehicles moving through the desert in that area for training exercises.

  • Michael Benton

    I always thought it was from high winds following or during heavy rains…. I grew up in Vegas and I know that dry lakes like that get really slick when wet.

  • http://twitter.com/Blaqk_Panda Adam Rose

    Maybe the rocks were caught in the ice of a glacier that rolled through. Once the ice melted…boom…just rocks

  • http://twitter.com/ABPpics Daniel Losowski

    I feel like some sort of magnetic pull is definitely going on here, though I’m not sure what or from where. Great shot as always Trey!

  • susan ratcliff

    Oh wow – this is beautiful! :)Am off to google it now!

  • Sean

    It is a glitch in the matrix. There is no spoon…

  • t_linn

    Good god, Trey! Did you want to guarantee you’d have the place to yourself? :) I can’t imagine a worse time to visit the Racetrack—literally life threatening. Being from Oregon, I like to head down between January and March to escape the dreary winter weather. Sounds like the road is in better shape then too. Regardless, this is one of the best Racetrack shots I’ve ever seen!

  • http://photoventures.wordpress.com/ Jeff Peterson

    Great photo. Looks like I was beaten to the theory of aliens…

  • Rachel Melton

    Tough. As the earth turns, magnetic masses in the core of the earth rumble around pulling these strange, magnetic rocks around on the surface. Or maybe aliens moved it…. o.o
    Other than that… I have no idea. It’s a killer image though, Trey! Nice work!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ernie.buffett Ernie Vater

    Was Captain Jack Sparrow and a very large ship anywhere in the vacinity?

  • http://www.goodsmithstudio.com/ Denver Engagement Photographer

    Great image. Crazy rocks indeed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Charlotte.KC Charlotte Lovegrove

    So the
    hills rose up and covered the extremities of the giant reptilian creature.
    Millennia passed and it rested. Its metabolism slowed to the point that no
    outward signs of life appeared to the transgressing humans. The reptile didn’t
    care about those meager beings. It dreamed on and on. The tissues of its
    immense body beneath the seemingly impenetrable outer “scales” of its
    earthen skin refused to become totally dormant. The result was the telltale
    tracks of certain rocks as they reacted to the trace movements of the reptile’s
    vast circulatory system. The reptile didn’t even give it a second thought.
    These beings were so far down the chain that he couldn’t even consider them and
    their loud, rolling, removable “skins” worth notice. The reptile
    dreamed on; the last of his race. He was the dead end, lost here from outer
    space.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Charlotte.KC Charlotte Lovegrove

    Your photos are always inspiring. This one is no exception. Love it. Keep sharing. Thank you.

  • Peter Grew

    My guess is some chemical reaction due to the white powder you mention that consumes or transfers the ground to the rock, thus moving it or it may be the deserted small Goblins that are just rocking… This shot has made it into my all-time favorites list, cool! You work hard Trey for your images but it pays off. Keep posting!

  • http://www.facebook.com/1138Studios Gino Barasa

    Wow!
    #1 – That is one fantastic image Big T.
    #2 – was Fantasy Football involved, in any way, with this rock moving?
    #3 – I would guess that the earth own magnetic pull is drawing these rocks across the smooth surface, based on your description of the surroundings.

  • louis van zyl

    The Mysterious rock is remote controlled else how do we attract tourists like yourself to such heat hehe!!

  • Scotty Graham

    great photo, Trey!! Never seen a photo of this spot at night!!

    How did the rocks move? Photoshop, of course….hehe….!!

  • louis van zyl

    The desert can be very cold at night and the heat of the stone would cool down as one would say (getting blood from a stone) and with that you get condensation and cold which will form ice.The stone will not always move but strong winds by night will as the stone will drift along the ground or icy surface. You can never beat nature wonders will always be there for man to marvel at.

  • Andrea Boyle

    What a killer photo! Wow! As for the rock movement question, I’m leaning on the wind theory

  • http://www.facebook.com/MrAndyBird Andy Bird

    Ernie kind of stole my gag…..I was going to ask if you saw Captain Kirk wrestling any reptilian humanoids – this is the type of place you’d see a scrap happening in the old ‘Star Trek’ TV shows!

  • http://twitter.com/PeteHalewood Pete Halewood

    Fantastic picture Trey, really love the depth of field, detail and the emptiness to this picture, in yet such a beautiful surrounding. How did the rock move? I believe it is a combination of Newton’s Law of Motion, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the ‘It’s not where you’ve been, it’s where you’re At’ mentality….

  • Raymond Chiarello

    Either wind or flash flooding.

  • rb

    I had a few lengths of PVC pipe that would mysteriously move across a parking lot by themselves on sunny days with no wind. One day I watched and thermal expansion bent them and slowly rolled them toward the sun. As they rolled, the new part on top would heat up, expand and fall forward. Doubt these rocks are doing that though :)

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    Hmm, here’s a few ideas:

    - small animals or lizards are moving them, you said you left no footprints they probably don’t either
    - magnetic forces
    - small earthquakes
    - aliens
    - the rocks aren’t actually rocks but really really slow turtles

    That’s all I got for now LOL

  • In2photos

    It’s quite obvious that the racetrack in Death Valley is an undocumented energy vortex, just like those in Sedona and other rare locals around the globe. If the vortexes in Sedona can twist the nearby juniper trees into amazing shapes, surely pushing a little rock over a low coefficient of friction surface like this would be child’s play. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
    ~Captain Photo

  • Steve Martin

    Do not try and move the rock. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
    There is no rock.
    Then you’ll see, that it is not the rock that moves, it is only yourself. … a misquote from The Matrix :-)

  • yayaya

    may be it is falling star hehehe

  • xodeuce

    Pretty sure it floods, gets real cold at night, top layer freezes, ice + water moves rock, melts, drains, bingo bongo.

  • grantwm77

    fantastic photo! the moving rocks aren’t really a big mystery at all. When it rains at certain times in the dessert there may be several inches of water that is pushed by the wind across the the playa turning the mud into a very slippery surface. then at night it gets very cold and the ice forms a sheet at the surface of the water and solidifies around the rocks. The wind blows heavily across the playa and begins to move the ice sheets similar to an air hockey table. This movement drags the rocks along creating the grooves in the sediment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1077605583 Karen Johnson

    @ Gary – LMAO!! Great theory!!!
    I was there a couple years ago and marveled at how those rocks traveled across such a hot, dry wasteland! There was always a bunch of dirt in front (or back) of the trail which proves that they are certainly moving inches, feet or even miles! We came up with all kinds of theories like space aliens messing with our heads, or they only move when our backs are turned, to instant flooding and high winds that the valley is famous for. You have to be careful not to get caught in a flash flood while trekking through the slot canyons, but I think it would be a blast to be at the playa while the rocks are on the move. I actually got the feeling that the rocks had a personality after seeing the direction they traveled in! Being there was one of the best vacations I have ever been on and plan to go back again!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kimo.estores Kimo Estores

    Obviously they’re the remnants of the rock monster from Galaxy Quest trying to pull itself together after having plummeted to earth

  • Michael Smith

    Fantastic shot Trey, so crisp and clean with great composition and colours, well done!

  • Larisa Kudisheva

    The vibration is causing the rock to move.

  • http://niteodesign.com/ Blake Petersen

    Wind.

  • Steven Berringer

    The rock is perfectly still,it’s the earth that’s moving.

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