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Amargosa Desert - Sand Dunes:

Big Dune ACEC, Nevada

Big Dune ACEC

Amargosa Valley's Singing Sand Dune

For centuries people in the Middle East and in China have noted that some desert sand dunes emit acoustical energy (sound) when disturbed. The phenomenon has been described variously as roaring, booming, squeaking, singing, or resembling one of several musical instruments (kettle drum, zither, tambourine, bass violin, or trumpet). Other descriptions liken the sound to a foghorn or a low-flying, propeller-driven aircraft (Trexler and Melhorn, 1986:147).

Most desert dunes do not emit sound; only about thirty around the world are known to do so. And those that do, do not sing on all occasions. Dune sound emissions are not well understood, but they appear to be connected to the "mechanical coupling between grains" when sands avalanche down a dune slope. The initial sound, which is produced by the grains abrading on each other, becomes a lower audio frequency that is then amplified. In some instances an observer can feel the vibrations when a dune sings (Trexler and Melhorn, 1986:148).

Three singing dunes are known in Nevada: one at Sand Mountain 18 miles southeast of Fallon; Crescent Dunes about 10 miles northeast of Tonopah; and Big Dune in the Amargosa Valley.

Big Dune lies in the northern part of the Amargosa Valley, about 10 miles south of Beatty and 5.5 miles northeast of the Nevada-California state line. It is clearly visible in the distance to the southwest from U.S. Highway 95. Big Dune's crest is ap-proximately 300 feet above the valley floor. It is reached by turning south off Highway 95 at the Amargosa Farm sign, proceeding 2.5 miles, then west on the dirt road in the direction of the dune. In 1985 the photogenic beauty of Big Dune provided the backdrop for scenes in which Las Vegas Strip casinos were buried in desert sands in the futuristic movie Cherry 2000.

from -- A History of AMARGOSA VALLEY, NEVADA
Robert D. McCracken

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Big Dune ACEC is located in the Amargosa Valley of Nye County off Valley View Road south of State Highway 95. It is a 1.5 square mile complex star sand dune that reaches 2,731 feet above sea level. It is managed to protect habitat for four sensitive beetle species, three which are endemic to this single dune complex and are found nowhere else in the world. Big Dune is one of only three dune systems in the planning area. Giulianiís big dune scarab beetle (Pseudocotalpa giulianii) was proposed for listing as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in August 1978 with the entire Big Dune Complex proposed critical habitat for the species. Off-road vehicle use and mining were identified as the largest threat to the species at the time. Three other sensitive beetle species can also be found at Big Dune:
    Large Aegialian Scarab Beetle (Aegialia magnifica)
    Rulienís miloderes weevil (Miloderes rulieni)
    Big Dune aphodius scarab beetle (Aphodius sp.)
Vegetation around and on the dunes includes creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), sandpaper plant (Petalonyx thurberi), prickly poppy (Argemone corybosa) and astragalus (Astragalus lentiginosus var. variabilis). These plants and the dune itself are very important for survival of these rare beetle species. All four Big Dune beetle species rely on dune plants for survival. The plants provide food and mating sites and, when covered with sand, shelter and food for their larvae. The beetles also burrow into the harder layers of sand below the loose, windblown dune surface when they are inactive.

Recreation Opportunities:
    Non-competitive off-highway vehicle use
    Limited to existing roads and the open dunes
    Sandboarding and sandskiing on open dunes
    Wildlife viewing
    Photography
Source - BLM Nevada




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