“A surreal natural feature”
These dunes are the best known and easiest to visit in the national park. Located in central Death Valley near Stovepipe Wells, access is from Hwy. 190 or from the unpaved Sand Dunes Road. Although the highest dune rises only about 100 feet, the dunes actually cover a vast area. This dune field includes three types of dunes: crescent, linear, and star shaped. Polygon-cracked clay of an ancient lakebed forms the floor. Mesquite trees have created large hummocks that provide stable habitats for wildlife. The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are at the northern end of the valley floor and are nearly surrounded by mountains on all sides. Due to their easy access from the road and the overall proximity of Death Valley to Hollywood, these dunes have been used to film sand dune scenes for several movies including films in the Star Wars series. The largest dune is called Star Dune and is relatively stable and stationary because it is at a point where the various winds that shape the dunes converge. The depth of the sand at its crest is 130–140 feet (40–43 m) but this is small compared to other dunes in the area that have sand depths of up to 600–700 feet (180–210 m) deep. 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. In between many of the dunes are stands of creosote bush and some mesquite on the sand and on dried mud, which used to cover this part of the valley before the dunes intruded (mesquite was the dominant plant here before the sand dunes but creosote does much better in the sand dune conditions).
Very cool spot to walk around and feel the sand between your toes but if you're pressed for time, keep going! There's so much more to see deeper in the park.
Go to the east side of the dunes for less footprints in the sand.
You have to walk pretty far to get away from the hordes of tourists, but all in all this is a beautiful area and I highly recommend.
I loved the dunes! I'm not used to walking in sand so it didn't take me long to get my shoes off to make it easier, but it was amazing. I went on New Years Eve and it was the perfect place to watch the last sunset of the year.
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Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
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