The Mystery Behind Death Valley’s Sliding Rocks

What are these mysterious sliding rocks you ask? Well just as the title implies, a phenomenon that was discovered in Death Valley National Park in California in which large boulders weighing up to 700 pounds move along an ancient lake bed without being touched by anyone or anything.

Although it varies for each boulder, trails that mark their journey across the lake bed are clearly left behind. It is hard not to notice these trails left behind that range from mere inches, to several thousands of feet in distance. On an area of land that is seemingly flat for miles, how is it possible for these immense rocks to just slide across without a someone physically forcing them to? Over a century’s worth of scientific investigations and research has been done and scientists have been left without answer… until now that is.

During late August, Scientists finally answered the long standing question. Death valley’s distinct shape allows water to be trapped after a large amount of rainfall strikes the area. This water engulfs the large boulders and erodes the land at their base. The movement occurs when the water around the stones freezes and forms sheets of ice. After the water is frozen, the ice begins chipping away and slamming into other large sheets of ice. The slamming of solid blocks of ice into each other is what causes the movements. The rocks were reported to move slowly at a rate of 2-5 meters per minute. These rates were recored by placing artificial rocks of the same weight on the lakebed with an imbedded gps. The boulders were left for two years until the results were finally received.

So after decades of tireless research by many scientists we now know the answer to the mystery behind Death Valley’s sliding rocks. To learn more about the process that took place to find what was causing this phenomenon watch this video.


Oskin, Becky. “Scientists Unravel Mystery of Death Valley’s Moving Rocks.” NBC News. NBC, 27 Aug. 2014. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.


2 thoughts on “The Mystery Behind Death Valley’s Sliding Rocks

  1. Christina Marie Pici

    It is so cool that this scientific discovery was made so recently. I also think it is cool that scientists would be interested in this topic, but I guess scientists are interested in a lot of things. Personally, I would have never thought to look at these rocks moving and want to find the answer as to why. I would have just assumed wind or something which is ridiculous because the rocks are 700 pounds. It is amazing how the land is able to do crazy things such as naturally move 700 pound rocks.

  2. Marie Terese Fox

    Super fascinating, and to think that the answer was discovered in August is so cool, because so many theories had been floating around until recently. They have literally been studying this since 1915 and it took almost 100 years t come up with a satisfactory answer.

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