In a desolate corner of Nevada, a playa surrounded by rugged mountains and described as dry, dusty, desolate, and devoid of vegetation comes to life the week before Labor Day every year for a unique arts festival.
Black Rock Playa in northwestern Nevada is part of the lakebed of ancient Lake Lahontan, a deep lake that existed as recently as 15,000 years ago. Lake Lahontan left fine sediments on the lake bottom to form the extremely flat surface. According to a detailed topographic study, the elevation of the playa varies by just 1 meter over 310 square kilometers.
The playa stretches 56 kilometers from the small town of Gerlach toward the northeast and the edge of the Black Rock Range.
Rainfall is rare during summer when daily high temperatures regularly exceed 37°C, making the surface hard-packed and dusty. Snowmelt flows into the playa in the spring to smooth out the surface. The clay minerals on the lakebed expand when wet and then contract as they dry to form a cracked pattern.
Black Rock Playa is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as The Black Rock Desert–High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area.
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