Sweeping Sands

First, let me take your breath away. Just for a moment. I’ll give it back, I promise.

Sand Dunes, Oregon Coast

Back in 2010, my intrepid companion and I went geotrekking with Lockwood, and he took us to see some ethereal dunes on the Oregon coast just north of Florence. This photo comes from a viewpoint somewhere past Darlingtonia Wayside, below Seal Rock Cave. I’ve had it on my mind to write up for ages now. I still haven’t got the research done, but Brian Romans and Galileo’s Pendulum have declared Sand Dune Week, so now’s as good a time as any to tease you with a few photos, and reminisce about Sand Dunes I Have Known.

Where I grew up, sand dunes were a dry-land sort of thing. There’s all sorts of places in Arizona where you can do the dunes, Yuma being among the more impressive. We passed through there on the way to San Diego once, and I recall being rather astounded by the sea of sand. Those dunes would qualify as mountains in some of the flatter parts of the country. I snapped a picture of them on the way through, but have since lost it. So, engage your imagination, and pretend we’re looking at a picture of pale yellow sand looming outside the car window, with a wonderful little blurred bare tree accenting just how much sand and how little vegetation we’re looking at. Someday, if they’re very lucky, those dunes may end up looking like this:

Coconino Sandstone, Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona. Photo Credit Cujo.

This isn’t the best example of cross-bedding in the entire universe, but you get the idea. And another:

Moar Coconino Sandstone, Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona. Photo credit: Cujo

Once, this part of Northern Arizona was like Yuma, covered in pale sand piled up into dunes. They’re now fossil landscapes. You can find lithified dunes all over Arizona.

Page Sandstone, Page, Arizona

Spent quite a few years running over the slickrock, without ever knowing I was exploring an ancient dunescape. It may have once looked like Sossusvlei. That’s a hell of a thing to contemplate.

There’s a reprise going on, along Highway 89, just after 89a splits off. You go through a magnificent road cut blasted through the ancient dunes, and right on the other side, cuddling the cliffs, you’ll see little red sand dunes. The sandstone here is returning to its roots.

Down in Sedona, you can travel through a variety of sandy old landscapes, deserts and coasts, and they loom over you at Slide Rock. It’s dramatic scenery. Too bad the cat didn’t appreciate it.

Moi avec chat, Slide Rock State Park, Arizona. Shot by Cujo.

In Arizona, the sand dunes that have not got turned to stone don’t tend to have much vegetation on them. So it’s fascinating to loop back round to Oregon, and see so much stuff growing on the sand that the dunes are practically immobile. Not to mention all that blue wet salty stuff off to the west.

Sand Dunes, Oregon Coast.

Some misguided fools last century actually planted some sort of grass so the dunes would stop moving around and annoying the land owners. And it’s done a bang-up job of paralyzing once-free dunes. But here and there, the sand slips free.

Free Sand!

And maybe, just maybe, someday, the dunes will move again.

I’ll leave you with one last image, this one from Holman Overlook:

Oregon Coast Sand Dunes, Holman Overlook

There. Lovely. And someday, I’ll give them the write-up they deserve. For now, I leave you with these other fine Dune Week posts:

Clastic Detritus: Grain Flow on a Martian Dune.

Galileo’s Pendulum: Who Needs Shark Week? Let’s Have Dune Week!

Cocktail Party Physics: Of Granular Material and Singing Sands.


Georneys: Sand Dunes in Death Valley.

Looking for Detachment: Sand Mountain for Sand Dune Week.

Geology Home Companion: Can Dune!

Agile Geoscience: Wave-particle duality.

Research at a Snail’s Pace: Dune Week.

Pools and Riffles: Sand Dune Week: The Sand Hills.

European Geosciences Union: Sand Dunes at EGU GA 2012.

Sandatlas: Mysterious dunes in Estonia.

In the Company of Plants and Rocks: Dune Week: virtual field trip to the Oso Flaco dunes.

Catherine Curtis: Namib sand dunes.

EPOD: Death Valley Dunes and Former Lake Bed.

MRO: NASA Orbiter Catches Mars Sand Dunes in Motion.

Let me know if there’s anybody I missed.

Sweeping Sands
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3 thoughts on “Sweeping Sands

  1. 1

    Awesome, amazing, astonishing pictures and description. Your joy and fascination with these subjects is clearly contagious, and a good thing, too!

  2. 3

    Odd as it sounds, you sometimes have to be reminded of great adventures you have had. That’s what your mention on Sossusvlei did for me. I’ve been to the very end of the 4 x 4 road, but initially forgot about it in the dune discussion. Instead I focused on the Kobuk sand dunes in Alaska.

    I have great pictures, but as usual I’m not home and I never got time to blog about that trip. Here’s some notes about Namibia from other trips:


    And an older one:


    Have to write up the Soussesvlei trip one of these days, as I have great pictures from there.

    Once again, thanks for the reminder…..

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