Mesquite silhouetted by the dawn on the Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley, CA.
Mesquite (from Nahuatl mizquitl ['miskit͡ɬ]) is a leguminous plant of the Prosopis genus found in northern Mexico through the Sonoran Desert and Chihuahuan Deserts, and up into the Southwestern United States as far north as southern Kansas, west to the Colorado Desert in California, and east to the eastern fifth of Texas, where average annual rainfall is in excess of 40 in (100 cm). Several species are found in arid to semi-arid regions of southern and western South America.
Many first time visitors to Death Valley are surprised it is not covered with a sea of sand. Less than one percent of the desert is covered with dunes, yet the shadowed ripples and stark, graceful curves define "desert" in our imaginations.
For dunes to exist there must be a source of sand, prevailing winds to move the sand, and a place for the sand to collect. The eroded canyons and washes provide plenty of sand, the wind seems to always blow (especially in the springtime), but there are only a few areas in the park where the sand is "trapped" by geographic features such as mountains.
The sand dunes of Death Valley National Park are excellent places for nature study and recreation. All of the dunes in Death Valley National Park are protected as wilderness, off-road vehicle travel is not permitted and sandboarding is not allowed on the Eureka Dunes.
Mesquite Flat Dunes
These dunes are the best known and easiest to visit in the national park. Located in central Death Valley near Stovepipe Wells, access is from Hwy. 190 or from the unpaved Sand Dunes Road. Although the highest dune rises only about 100 feet, the dunes actually cover a vast area. This dune field includes three types of dunes: crescent, linear, and star shaped. Polygon-cracked clay of an ancient lakebed forms the floor. Mesquite trees have created large hummocks that provide stable habitats for wildlife.
August 5th, 2012
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