Sailing Stones of Bonnie Claire Playa - Atlas Obscura

Sailing Stones of Bonnie Claire Playa

Under the right conditions, rocks will move across this dry lakebed, leaving trails behind them. 


Stones aren’t known to move around much on their own. The most notable exceptions are the sailing stones of Racetrack Playa, which seemingly scoot around a dried-up lakebed all on their own.

After years of hypothesizing about the reasons for the stones’ movement, scientists caught the sailing stones in action in 2013. Water accumulates on the playa in the winter, and when the weather conditions are just right, a thin layer of ice forms. As the ice breaks up into sheets, the wind pushes them around and they in turn push the stones, creating trails in the soft mud. The most famous of these places is Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa, but the phenomenon can be found in other places with similar climates.

The playa at Bonnie Claire is more easily accessible. It’s located about an hour’s drive past the town of Beatty. The last mile or so is done on a rocky dirt road. Once there, you will be greeted with the sight of a large dried-up lake stretching out into the distance. 

Bonnie Claire Playa has fewer large rocks than Racetrack Playa—there are fewer large hills nearby, meaning not as many opportunities for stones to tumble onto the playa naturally. But you will likely find a lot of smaller ones, with some light trails behind them.

Sadly the accessibility to this place and the fact that it is not in a national park make it less protected. People have driven up the lake with their cars or motorcycles, disrupting the delicate ecosystem. The number of rocks on the playa is variable.

Know Before You Go

Drive past Bonnie Claire until the road splits off towards an abandoned mine, the road to the playa is on the opposite side of the road. You can also go through Bonnie Claire, but the road is much rougher so don't do that unless you have a good car. 

Please do not drive on the playa, it takes decades for those tracks to heal and you are breaking the environment for the sailing rocks. Also make sure to bring enough water, as it tends to get very hot!

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