Sand Mountain – Fallon, Nevada - Atlas Obscura

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Sand Mountain

Singing sand that stands as the final remains of an ancient lake. 


About 10,000 years ago, the desert of Nevada was home to Lake Lahontan. About 8,500 square miles (larger than Lake Ontario, but smaller than Erie), Lahontan was one of the largest lakes in North America at the time.

Today, 90 miles east of Carson City, Sand Mountain is a modern remnant of the ancient lake. As wind blew across the plains, the sand accumulated near a basin that stopped the wind. Stretching across the Nevada desert, the large dune is two miles long and 600 feet high. The unique dune is among a few in the world that actually sing. As wind blows across the top, the sands vibrate together to create a long eerie hum. In order to sing, the sand must have round grains between 0.1 and 0.5 in diameter, contain silica, and maintain a level humidity.

The Mountain lies on Highway 50, the Loneliest Road in America according to Life magazine. Until recently there were no paved roads into the park, but the black top was finished in early 2010. Visitors can camp in the area but must bring their own water.

Nearby, a Pony Express station dating to 1860 and the Sand Springs Desert Study Area continue to attract curious visitors.

Know Before You Go

When traveling East toward Austin on Highway 50, Sand Mountain will be to your left.

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