Sand Dunes of the Southwest

Ibex Dunes, CA

Ibex Dunes

Olsen Family Photo

The Ibex Dunes are located in a remote southeastern corner of Death Valley National Monument. They are not too far from the Dumont Dunes which lie just outside the park boundary. In fact, the Amargosa River which flows past the Dumont Dunes and heads into Death Valley will need to be crossed on the way to the Ibex Dunes. Normally dry, it was actually running a few inches deep when we were there on March 14, 2010.

To get there, go north on CA State Highway 127 from Baker. About 30 miles north of Baker, on the west side of the highway there is a stone historical marker commemorating the "Harry Wade Exit Route." Head west on the graded gravel road that goes past the marker. About 4 miles in, you will be able to see the dunes off to the right. At 5.8 miles, you will come to the junction to Saratoga Springs. Turn right (north) and this road will take you closer to the dune area. The closest approach to the dunes is just past the turnoff for Saratoga Springs. From there itís about a one mile walk to the edge of the dunes, which lie in a wilderness area where off road vehicle travel is not permitted.

The Ibex Dunes are transverse and star-shaped dunes composed of sand blown east from the floodplain of the Amargosa River. Some windblown sand can be seen up on the mountain slopes behind the dunes. An old talc mine at the base of the Saddle Peak Hills overlooks the dunes. The Mojave Fringe-toed Lizard lives on these dunes, and wildflowers bloom here in the spring. Our only drawback to getting out and exploring the dunes was not feeling comfortable having to leave our car for a long period of time when there were two squatters parked at that isolated location, probably due to it being near the spring.

If you continue north on this road through Death Valley, you will eventually loop around the mountains back to Highway 127 adjacent to a microwave facility. From this vantage point you can see a panoramic view of the Dumont Dunes across the valley below. This rugged route is recommended for high clearance vehicles and there is a small area of drifting sand that you have to drive through; but if you can do it, the geologic formations are spectacular. We didn't see any other vehicles along that road and despite its proximity to Highway 127 it's obviously not a spot that's frequented by tourists, or even park rangers.

Ibex 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.