Playa Serpents

Look out for transient 'dunes' on the Blackrock playa!

Mike Bilbo from the BLM forwarded us the following note from Sue Weeks about hazards out on the playa, please look out for these especially when driving at night they are hard to see untill you are almost upon them - these sound as if they are much larger that those we've seen in previous years - not something to hit at 80mph. Despite being called 'dunes' they are NOT soft sand, they are raised structures of hardened mud. They are 'transient' because they move around from year to year as the playa floods and drys again - we often see smaller ones if we come in from the first playa entrance.

Mike says:

"Landsailers call them 'reefs.' Sue Weeks calls them 'playa serpents.' Makes sense both ways. Most of them are hard, are cementing/cemented in place. Average height so far is about 1 to 1.5 feet. They are similar to the ones that formed at the LSR pit stations in '97, but different in their length, attitude and form or style. Two images from Sue Weeks are attached.
Of interest, on accessing the playa by way of Cholona and then beeline navigating to a ridgeline feature above and behind 1st Access/3-Mile, I totally missed these features in heading to the volunteer training this past weekend (Friday evening), but on returning Sunday night to Cholona via the easterly trackway, I got nailed by one just south of Coyote Spring. I was going about 35, looking for them and with high beam, the dune still came up too fast. It was a pretty good hit but the 3/4-ton truck weathered it alright."

Photos by Mike Bilbo.