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Ventifact Ridge Death Valley EarthCache

Hidden : 04/26/2011
3.5 out of 5
2 out of 5

Size: Size:   not chosen (not chosen)

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Geocache Description:

The strong winds that blow through Death Valley carry grains of sand that erode the rocks that litter the valley floor. The boulders on this ridge have been sculpted by this wind-blown sand creating ventifacts.

There is no official parking near the ridge. The ridge extends west from the start of Artists Drive, so traffic will be heavier than on the open road. Be sure to park off the pavement before walking out to examine the ventifacts.

As with all locations in National Parks, everything is protected, so leave it as you found it.

Ventifacts are rocks that have been eroded by wind-blown sand or ice. Typically ventifacts are found in arid environments with frequent high winds and a steady supply of sand, but not too much. The high winds pick up very fine-grained sand and silt particles blasting them against the boulders on the ground. The result are boulders that have small parallel grooves on roughly planar surfaces. These planar surfaces look similar to the pitted surface of sea glass (a cloudy dull shine).

Most of the boulders on the ridge are basalt that already contain vesicles (air pockets frozen into the rock as it cooled from lava). Be careful not to confuse the vesicles with grooves. Freshly exposed vesicles will circular and not have any linear features to them. Vesicles that have been sand blasted will be elongated and even merged with adjoining vesicles.

In Death Valley, strong winds blowing up and down the valley are common. The multiple alluvial fans emanating from the surrounding mountains provide a constant, but not overwhelming source of sand and silt. This ridge rises up just a short ways from the valley floor placing the boulders in the path of the wind.

Logging Requirements
Send me a note with :

  1. The text "GC2V3C5 Ventifact Ridge Death Valley" on the first line
  2. The number (including non-cachers) and names of the geocachers in your group.
  3. Examine 5 boulders and determine which side (compass direction) has the cloudy dull shine. Do not move the rocks in your examination.
  4. Compare the relative amount of erosion (sand blasting) on the boulders on the north, south, and crest of the ridge. .

The following sources were used to generate this cache:

  • Sharp, Robert P. and Allen F. Glazner, Geology Underfoot in Death Valley and Owens Valley, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula , Montana, 1997

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