|  Home |  Canada Trips |  US Trips |  Hiking |  Snowshoeing |  MAP |  About

Kelso Dunes
Mojave Desert, California
November 9, 2010

Not only do the Kelso Dunes soar 200 m above the Mojave Desert, they also sing. They are one of about thirty booming dunes in the world, dunes capable of producing sounds like long musical notes. But not everyone who visits the Kelso Dunes is lucky enough to experience the phenomena. Apparently it requires the right moisture conditions in the sand. We hoped to be counted among the fortunate.

Instead of parking at the usual trailhead for the Kelso Dunes, Shin, who joined Dinah and me, suggested we drive to the west end. From there we could ascend the ridge of the highest dune instead of tackling the steep slope facing the trailhead.

To reach the dune, we crossed the desert comprising sand, creosote and bunchgrass. As we hiked, we looked for animal life but only saw animal tracks. But I forgot about the animals as we neared the dune. I became absorbed in the pile of sand ahead. Up close it was much bigger than I expected. We reached the foot of the dune and started climbing.

As we climbed, I stopped frequently to look around and take photos. I fell behind Dinah and Shin who continued to plod up the ridge. Then curiosity got the best of me. Although it didn't seem possible, I had to see if jumping on the dune produced a musical tone. I jumped and the sand “boomed.” A strange reverberating sound, seemingly without a source, filled the air. Remarkably, Dinah and Shin heard it even though they were well ahead. Unaware that I set off a sand boom, they looked around, baffled by the odd noise. They thought the sound came from a passing truck or a plane.

We hurried to the summit. We thought, erroneously it turns out, that the best booms would emanate from the steepest slopes near the summit. On the summit, Shin and I began jumping. We delighted in the reverberations we could both feel and hear. However, not only jumping set off the sounds. Digging and running also made the sand sing. We ran much of the way back down the dune.

As we hiked back across the desert, we again looked for animals. And before we reached our car, we spotted fringed-toed lizards. When frightened, they are capable of burying themselves in the sand, completely hiding. But the two we saw merely stayed put, enabling me to take close-up photographs.

Our short climb up the dune packed in a lot of fun. Hiking to the top of the Kelso Dunes is a worthwhile experience in itself, but nothing can compare with hearing the amazing sand booms.

GPX and KML Tracks

Listen to the dunes "sing" (best with good bass speakers)

Kelso Dunes seen from a distance

The sand dunes seen as we drove to our starting point

Our starting point

The highest point is left

Dinah heads to the base of the sand dune

Kangaroo rat burrows

Granite Mountains lie south

We slowly drew closer to the dunes

We started up the ridge on the left

We reached the foot of the sand dune

Shin and Dinah started hiking up

Dinah works her way up the sand

Nothing but sand filled the view ahead now

Shin took a more direct route

There are dunes behind us but we were only interested in climbing the highest one

I stopped to take photos while Shin and Dinah forged ahead

Following the ridge crest

On the top

Shin hams it up

Dinah explored a ridge north of the summit

We walked a short way past the summit

To the east are more dunes and the Providence Mountains

After jumping to create sand booms, I crawled back up

On the way back I noticed these flowers

We also saw fringed-toed lizards (mouse over for another view)

Kelso Dunes Topo (2.5 mi, 3123 ft, 604 ft)

U.S. Trips | Home