Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sand Mountain for Sand Dune Week

Two dune posts in a row in a row creates a geoblogosphere meme, and Sand Dune Week has been proclaimed!
Sand Mountain — located on Highway 50 about 25 miles east of Fallon, NV — is a perfect candidate for Dune Week, being one of those booming or singing dunes described here on Cocktail Party Physics.

View angle, time of year and day (sun angle), and weather all affect the seemingly shifting appearance of Sand Mountain, sometimes dramatically. The first photo (above)was taken from the west-southwest during the middle of an early March day last spring, 2011.
This second photo was taken from the south in the late afternoon in late May, also 2011. Enlargement of the second photo will reveal a barely visible white line on the east side of the dune: the RV city usually sitting in the lee of the dune, where ATVers gather to run up and and down the face.
Here's the mountain in a wind storm, a late afternoon in mid-May of 2009. Any RVs present are getting sand blasted!
Lighting for pictures can be quite variable, and I often get flat pictures just driving by at random times of the day. But even mid-summer can be good for shadows and details, as shown by this photo taken early one morning in early July, 2010. Enlargement of this photo shows two tiny-looking ATVs on the west side (far left) of the dune, behind and a little to the right of a foreground dark spot that is possibly a rock or large bush. Look carefully!

Although I've driven up to the RV city and to the half buried Sand Springs Pony Express station, I've never gone on the dune to try to make it boom.

One thing that can be done fairly easily, as part of this mini virtual field trip, is to follow the sand from Sand Mountain back to its original source, back to the southwest across a mountain or two, then across Highway 95 south of Fallon, southwest toward the delta of the Walker River, where the river emptied into ancient Lake Lahontan. Start with this map and this air photo, then go here (scale change), then here, and then here (direction change). The last air photo is mostly below the high stand of Lake Lahontan, but shows the final current destination of the Walker River: Walker Lake.

Meme participants so far:
Galileo's Pendulum
Clastic Detritus
Cocktail Party Physics
In the Company of Plants and Rocks
Agile* - Journal
Ron Schott's Geology Home Companion Blog
Research at a snail's pace
Earth Science Picture of the Day
Pools and Riffles
Earth-like Planet
En Tequila Es Verdad
Through The Sandglass
EarthSky // Blogs // Space (Deborah Byrd)

Some References:
La Pointe, D.D., 2000, Earth Science Week 2000: Geology along America's Loneliest Highway. A field trip for families and rockhounds: Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology Educational Series E-37.

Trexler, D.T., and Melhorn, W.N., 1986, Singing and Booming Sand Dunes of California and Nevada: California Geology, v. 39, no. 7, p. 147-152. Also reprinted here on Tom Sweich's webpages.

NOTE: The California Geology search page is quite finicky or counterintuitive. I finally searched using only the year, 1986. What also worked was %California% %Nevada% with the percent symbols, entered as keywords under "Title of Article."


Gaelyn said...

The light and shadows so crisp on these flowing dunes.

Recently visited Coral Pink Sand Dunes in S UT. I could have done without the ATVs. They had a great display of sands from around the world. I was blown away by the variety.

Hollis said...

Neat post. Thanks once again for directions, resources and photos ... beautiful photos!

yeah, Gaelyn ... those ATVs ... hmmmm. Being someone who hates proliferation of rules and regulations and respects other folks' interests, I'm conflicted on the issue. It used to be that if we met up with an ATV while hiking or a snowmobile while skiing it was not a problem and often fun to visit. That was a great arrangement. But now the HORDES pretty much ruin things for me.

Utemike said...

Just because it is sand Dune time, I have to give a shout out to the Kobuk sand dunes near Kotzebue (actually near Kobuk but Kotz is easier to find - follow the arctic circle west to the coast, there you are). Backtrack a little east from Kotz to find the dunes.

If you are near Sand Mountain, don't forget to look up. Top gun school is nearby and I have a cool picture of a figure 8 contrail. Not to mention some huge booms!

Silver Fox said...

Thanks, Gaelyn and hollis. At Sand Mountain the ATVs seem quite small compared to the dunes, though they are always there - it is an offroad area. And a small RV city is always there, too. It's not quite to the same level as the sand dunes northwest of Yuma near the Chocolate Mountains, a major ORV area near several major cities.

Silver Fox said...

Utemike, thanks for mentioning the Kobuk sand dunes. I've never been out that way, but will have to look into them on Google Earth. Never been to Kotzebue, Kobuk, Kotz. There are some neat dunes near Anchorage, too, don't have any digital pictures of those.

The aerial displays in the area of Sand Mountain, including sometimes in Dixie Valley, can be spectacular. Another good viewing point can be right at the parking lot of Grimes Point.

Deborah Byrd said...

Thanks for this post Silver Fox! I guess I participated in your meme without realizing I was doing it ... here's a post from November 20 on sand dunes on Mars ...

All the best!


Silver Fox said...

Thanks for pointing your post out to me, Deborah - have now aded it to the list!