Sand Dunes of the Southwest

Sand Mountain, NV

Sand Mountain

Wikipedia Public Domain Image

About 25 miles east of Fallon, NM along U.S. Route 50, "the loneliest road in America," there is the 4,795-acre Sand Mountain Recreation Area. The sand dune itself is two miles long and 600 feet (180 m) high. It lies on the edge of the ancient Lake Lahontan.

The cool, wet climate and runoff from glaciers during the last Ice Age had created this immense inland lake that covered much of what is now western Nevada. But after the climate grew warmer and the glaciers retreated, the lake dried up about 9,000 years ago.

The sand particles which the glaciers had ground away from the hard Sierra granite were picked up and carried high into the air. More than thirty miles to the northeast, the wind was slowed by the southwest flank of the Stillwater Range. With its force broken by the mountain, the wind deposited its load of sand there.

The wind is constantly changing the shape of Sand Mountain and sometimes the shifting of the sand will produce a soft rustling, or even an eerie booming sound. This unique characteristic has earned Sand Mountain its nickname of "Singing Mountain."

On weekends in the spring and fall, a large number of off-highway vehicle riders and sandboarders can be found at Sand Mountain. Nearby there is the historic Sand Springs Pony Express Station and Desert Study Area where visitors can learn about the plants and animals of the Great Basin.

This dune area is the only home of the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly, referred to as "rare" because of its small geographical distribution around the Sand Mountain dune. The BLM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working to preserve the butterfly's habitat while keeping the dune open for recreation.

Sand Mountain

Google Earth image


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