Sand Dunes of the Southwest

Eureka Dunes, CA

Eureka Dunes

National Park Service Image

These dunes are located in the remote Eureka Valley, an enclosed basin that lies northwest of Death Valley at an elevation of 3,000 feet. The Eureka Dunes are not a particularly large dune field, covering an area only three miles long and one mile wide, but they are the tallest sand dunes in California and the second tallest dunes in North America. The steep-sloped dunes rise more than 680 feet above the dry lakebed at their western base, in front of the backdrop of the 4,000-foot Last Chance Mountains.

The Eureka Dunes appear to be a combination of transverse and longitudinal dunes. The sand is probably derived from granitic mountains to the west. Under the right conditions, these dunes can produce a booming sound when you start a cascade near the top, though it's not nearly as pronounced as the Kelso Dunes.

The isolation of Eureka Dunes means that endemic species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world live on these dunes. There are five species of endemic beetles, and three endemic plant species - Eureka Dunegrass, Eureka Dunes Evening Primrose, and Shining Milkvetch - all of which are specially adapted for the dune environment and some of which are listed as endangered species.

To reach the Eureka Dunes from the town of Big Pine on US Highway 395, take State Route 168. In 2.3 miles, turn right on Death Valley/Saline Valley Road. Follow it for about 37 miles and turn right on South Eureka Valley Road. Travel about 10 miles on the graded gravel road to the dunes.

Eureka Dunes

Google Earth image

References: - A Field Guide and Virtual Tour of the Geology of Death Valley National Park and Environs, by Steven G. Spear, Ph.D.

Website design and content (c)2010 by Peter Olsen. This educational unit study was my PVCC honors project for GPH 211 Landform Processes.