Sand Mountain, where the sand sings and dune buggies play
April 24, 2007
Some call it the “Singing Sands Mountain.” Others substitute “booming” for “singing.” Both are right because Sand Mountain on the north side of Highway 50 East does both. The “music” is caused by the fine sand particles being rubbed together by the constant southwesterly winds. The mountain sings best when it is hot and dry, but unfortunately that is when the dune buggies gather to play here.
Sand Mountain, just about 25 miles east of Fallon, is an eye-catching sight for drivers on Highway 50, with the remains of the dried-up Lake Lahontan to the south. The two-mile long dune rises 600 feet above the old lake bottom in awe-inspiring beauty. There are other sand dunes in the area, but this is the biggest and most popular, with hikers, families and dune-buggy drivers alike.
The dune is formed by the oddities of the wind currents and mountains, which shed the fine particles which wound up on the old lake bed. They were then blown to the mountain, where they stayed. The original source of the sand is reported to be the Walker River Delta, where that river flowed into the old Lahontan Lake (the lake bed stretches as far as the Black Rock Desert playa to the north).
Yes, the dune buggies play here, leaving tire tracks in the sand, sometimes obliterating the greasewood perennial shrub common to the dune. But the wind quickly rubs out the buggy tracks and the greasewood survives.
And there is more than dune buggy racing here. It’s a site for off-road vehicles, for nature study, for historical sites. The ruins of the Pony Express Sand Springs Station were discovered in 1976 after being buried by sand for almost a century. The site has been excavated and restored and an interpretive loop trail describes native plants and animals.
This Saturday is the Friends of Sand Mountain Spring Cleanup Day, and the group invites all to come and help. Meet at 10 a.m. at the kiosk where trash bags will be handed out. After the cleanup the Friends will hold a hamburger barbecue and a small meeting to update planning on the conservation plan and a new route map for the area. There will also be a raffle.
The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for Sand Mountain and has these rules:
• Avoid riding in areas closed to motor vehicles.
• Camp only in designated areas.
• Eight-foot whip flags are required on all vehicles riding in the dunes.
• Do not burn wood containing nails, screws or other metal hardware.
• Burning tires is prohibited.
• Speed limit is 15 mph in camping areas.
• Discharge of any firearms, fireworks, or projectiles is not allowed.
• Possession or use of any glass cup or bottle is not allowed.
• Do not dump gray or wastewater.
• Users must pay fee.
• Keep a clean camp. Pick up trash and dispose of it properly.
If in doubt, call the BLM at 885-6000.
OK, you’ve got your mission: Enjoy another of Nevada’s unique and “unbranded” sites.