The mystery of the Valley of Death, the place where stones move on their own

The mystery of the Valley of Death, the place where stones move on their own

With this name, no madman would dare to cross this valley. However, this deserted place attracts numerous tourists who come to visit it every year. It is so named because it is one of the hottest places in the world. North America and holds the world record for the highest temperature ever recorded for the entire planet: 58.1 degrees Celsius.

Thus, it has earned this nickname by heart, since staying in this place in the open air carries a great health risk due to its extreme temperatures. The valley is nestled in the Mojave Desert in eastern California, although it also encompasses parts of southwestern Utah, southern Nevada, and northwestern Arizona.

What is not in doubt, however, is that the mystery that resides in this place is greater than its temperature and its incredible arid fields. For, it has long fascinated scientists around the globe.

Besalú village.

The ‘traveling stones’.

Apart from being one of the hottest places on the planet, the mystery of the stones that move by themselves is a phenomenon that has been investigated for years and finally, several scientists have hit the key. A study published by the scientific and academic journal Plos One explains that the cause rests in the layer of water created by the rain on the dry ground. This forms a superficial ‘lake’ where rocks settle.

At night, the water freezes, causing a layer of ice where the bases of the rocks are trapped. This causes the ice to melt and fracture due to the high temperatures during the day, causing this phenomenon. As the ice melts, the rocks become slide at a speed of up to 5 meters per minute, leaving the characteristic trail in the ground.

Death Valley, California
Death Valley, California
Getty Images/iStockphoto

On the other hand, the valley also offers places of tourist interest such as the. Badwater Basinthe park’s most iconic attraction. At 85.5 meters below sea level, it is the lowest point in North America, and one of the driest and most scorching in the world.

Interior of the Güvercinlik King Suite.


Norris RD, Norris JM, Lorenz RD, Ray J, Jackson B (2014) Sliding Rocks on Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park: First Observation of Rocks in Motion. PLoS ONE 9(8): e105948.

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Kayleigh Williams