|Mojave Desert in Eastern California - Singing Sand Dunes,
Rainbow Basin, California Poppy, Huge Forest of Wind
Turbines and Huge Arrays of Solar Power Reflecting
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Sunset golden view of the famous "Syncline" in Rainbow Basin Natural Area which is 8 miles north of Barstow
in eastern California.
More views of the exciting multi-colored rock formations in the scenic canyons. After touring Mojave National
Preserve, we came to tour Rainbow Basin Natural Area in the late afternoon of April 18, 2012 near sunset
time. The Rainbow Basin looks more exciting when lit by the low-angle golden sunlight as then the hues are
much more vivid and the shadows enhance the natural undulating textures.
Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve in eastern California.
Kelso Dunes are of great interest to us for two reasons:
1. At about 600 feet in height, Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve are the third tallest in North America.
2. Kelso Dunes are in the very special class of "Singing Sand Dune" that can produce strong booming sound or
singing sound when substantial quantity of sands slide down the slope.
One can see and hear the sound of a Singing Sand Dune at the following YouTube website:
The sound produced is reminiscent of multi-engine propeller-driven aircraft, such as a B-29. The vibration can
also be felt in the feet of the person running on the sand dune, and the sand can be seen vibrating.
Another video on another singing sand dune (Dumont Dunes in Death Valley) can be seen and heard at the
following YouTube website:
An excellent demonstration of the singing sand dunes in Morocco can be seen and heard at the following
The following YouTube video shows the investigation of the singing sand dune on Eureka sand dunes of Death
Valley by engineers from California Institute of Technology and their scientific explanation for the singing sand
More information on Singing Sand Dunes is available at:
We flew from New Jersey to Las Vegas in the morning of April 18, 2012 for our trip to tour Eastern Sierra in
eastern California. We arrived at Las Vegas at about noon time of April 18, 2012. After getting a rental car
from Las Vegas airport, we spent the afternoon of April 18 to explore some interesting features in Mojave
National Preserve near Interstate Highway I-15 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. One of the interesting
features of Mojave Desert is this Singing Sand Dune at Kelso.
This is similar to the famous Singing Sand Dune in northwestern China known as Mingsha Shan (鸣沙山,
literally "Echoing-Sand Mountain") near Dunhuang (敦煌) in Gansu (甘肃) province, in northwestern China. The
Chinese Mingsha Shan (鸣沙山) is next to Crescent Lake (月牙泉) situated in a rich oasis along the famous
Silk Road. According to the experience from Mingsha Shan (鸣沙山), the Singing Dunes can produce not only
strong booming sound when large quantity of sands move, but also more subtle music like sound at suitable
light wind. (狂風起時，沙山會發出巨大的響聲，輕風吹拂時，又似管弦絲竹，因而得名為鳴沙山 ).
Sample sound of singing sand dune at suitable light wind can be heard at the following YouTube website:
Therefore, we are very interested to come to visit and to see the American Singing Sand Dunes which are
within 2-hour driving distance from Las Vegas.
Two more views of immense sand dunes at Kelso in Mojave Desert.
While driving on the Interstate I-15 from Las Vegas to Mojave National Preserve, we noticed this very unusual
road sign of "Zzyzx Rd" at Exit 239. This Zzyzx Rd goes south for 5 miles along the western shore of Soda
Lake (dry) to Desert Studies Center (operated by California State University) at Zzyzx. This oasis with Lake
Tuendae is the former site of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa. The name Zzyzx was given to this
area in 1944 by Curtis Howe Springer, claiming it to be the last word in the English language. The story on
Zzyzx is available at the following Wikipedia website:
While driving in Mojave National Preserve, we saw several volcanic cinder cones and large areas of volcanic
夕陽晚霞， 貪戀日落後的最後一片彩霞，周遭寂靜無聲， 伴著落
The glow of sunset at Rainbow Basin Natural Area.
We came to Rainbow Basin a little bit too late. If we came one hour earlier, we probably could have seen
even more colorful and beautiful views in this area.
The cliffs and the surrounding badlands in this area are composed of a mixture of colours of rock and sand -
reds, pinks and browns, with scattered veins of white gypsum crystals. They also occasionally contain fossil
bones, and the remains of a variety of dinosaurs have been unearthed here over the years.
I have also taken two panoramic pictures in Rainbow Basin Natural Area as shown on a separate web page at:
The main attractions are areas of badlands and folded, differently colored strata which have been eroded into
small ravines and pinnacles, diverse landscape of hills, canyons and washes. Multicolored rock walls and
mesas are accented by changing light conditions, making for many photographic opportunities.
Fantastic and beautiful shapes of rock formations. Many science-fiction movies set on Mars have been filmed
at this landmark.
Another interesting feature in Mojave National Preserve is Hole-in-the-Wall. However, in the afternoon of April
18, 2012, we did not have enough time to tour Hole-in-the-Wall because we wanted to go to Rainbow Basin
Natural Area before sunset as described in the following.
Brilliant orange colored California Poppy blanketed huge areas (1,760 acres) in California Poppy Reserve in
Antelope Valley in Mojave Desert west of Lancaster in southeast California. I took this picture in early April
2003 after we finished touring the Death Valley National Park and was driving from Death Valley to Los
Angeles. We were driving south on Highway 14 and at Lancaster, we took a detour going west for about 15
miles to visit the California Poppy Reserve.
It was a very windy day with light rain when I took this picture in early April of 2003 such that some rain drops
on my camera lens caused some smudges on this picture.
The address of California Poppy Reserve is: 15101 Lancaster Road, Lancaster, CA 93536. Phone: (661) 946-
6092. Call (661) 724-1180 for recorded wild flower updates information.
Map: Click here for an interactive Google Map showing location of Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Map: Click here for a more detailed local map of Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Directions: From the Antelope Valley Freeway (California 14) in Lancaster, exit on Avenue I and drive west 15
miles. Avenue I becomes Lancaster Road a few miles before the Poppy Reserve.
California poppy is California’s state flower. March through Memorial Day is the time to enjoy this wondrous
display of desert wildflowers including the ﬁnest concentration of California’s state ﬂower in this area of
Mojave Desert during a good wildﬂower year.
In our April 2012 tour of Mojave Desert, we also came to Antelope Valley hoping to take spectacular
panoramic pictures of the orange sea of beautiful poppies on the 1,760 acres of reserve. However, we were
disappointed because there were only a few scattered flowers. We asked local people for the reason. They
told us that there were very little rain in recent winter and spring seasons. So, 2012 is NOT a good year for
Therefore, it is important for visitors to call (661) 724-1180 for recorded wildflower updates information to see
if it is a good year for desert wildflowers before you come.
Two close up views of California poppy, the state flower of California.
Location and Map of Rainbow Basin:
Rainbow Basin Natural Area is located 8 miles north of Barstow, in eastern California, off Irwin Road (not
Fort Irwin Road). The main access route is the unpaved Fossil Bed Road. Barstow is Half way between Los
Angeles and Las Vegas. I-15 passes Barstow, making this a logical place to stop and break the journey.
Address: Fossil Bed Rd., 3 miles west of Fort Irwin Rd., Barstow, CA, 92311, Phone: 760/252-6000
Map: Click here for an interactive Google Map showing location of Rainbow Basin Natural Area
Map: Click for a more detailed local map of Rainbow Basin Natural Area
Warning: This one-way narrow Fossil Canyon Loop Road is essentially a dry wash without gravel nor
pebbles. The narrow dirt road makes sharp twist and turns in very narrow gorge and goes up and down on
very steep slopes with rough dirt road surface. After heavy rains in late 2010, four-wheel drive vehicle with
high clearance was mandated here, and road improvements were not in the works. FOSSIL CANYON
LOOP ROAD IS NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PASSENGER VEHICLES AND SHOULD NEVER BE
ATTEMPTED BY MOTORHOMES OR VEHICLES TOWING TRAILERS.
To find Rainbow Basin Natural Area (see the detailed local map above):
From Main Street, in Barstow, travel north on First Avenue and turn left (north) on Irwin Road.
Proceed north on Irwin Road out of town for 6 miles until you see the sign for Rainbow Basin.
Turn left (northwest) onto unpaved Fossil Bed Road and go for 3 miles.
At the Y-Split, take left (northwest) side to go into the Fossil Canyon Loop Road which is a one-way
unpaved narrow dirt road loop to tour the Rainbow Basin Natural Area.
This one-way unpaved loop road returns to Fossil Bed Road just west of this entrance.
Again, it is emphasized that 4X4 all-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance is necessary to drive on this very
rough unpaved dirt road of Fossil Canyon Loop Road through the Rainbow Basin Natural Area.
Two views of about 5,000 wind turbines on Tehachapi Pass on the scenic Tehachapi Mountains in Mojave
Desert in southern California. It is near the junction of Highway 58 and Tehachapi Willow Springs Rd east of
the town of Tehachapi and is about five miles West of town of Mojave which is at the junction of Highway 58
and Highway 14. The Tehachapi Pass is one of the windiest areas in the world.
I zoomed in to take these two pictures of the huge forest of wind turbines at a substantial distance away
when we were at Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve near Lancaster. This huge windmill farm is also
visible when we were driving north on Highway 14 from Lancaster going to Lone Pine (on Highway 395).
This huge forest of wind turbines has multiple generations of wind turbine technology installed since 1980s. It
is known as Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC), also known as Mojave Wind Farm, and is the largest in USA.
An aerial view of this large windmills farm can be seen at the following website:
In our 2006 trip to Palm Springs in southeast California, we also saw another huge forest of wind turbines at
San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs as described on my Travelogue web page at:
When we drove from Las Vegas on Interstate Highway I-15 going south towards Barstow on April 24, 2012,
we saw three tall towers under construction on the Mojave Desert visible from I-15. They are 40 miles (60
km) southwest of Las Vegas, near the California–Nevada border, north of Ivanpah, California and on
northwest side of I-15. They seem to be the centralized solar power towers of the Ivanpah Solar Power Plant
Facility as described on the following two Wikipedia websites:
According to these two website, this Solar Power project will deploy 347,000 heliostats (sun-tracking mirrors)
focusing solar energy on boilers located on these centralized solar power towers. This is the world’s largest
solar thermal power plant project currently under construction.
This seems to be the major commercialization of the experimental solar power technologies developed,
improved and demonstrated in previous years by Solar One/Solar Two projects at Daggett, California located
between I-15 and I-40 in Mojave Desert.
This picture, that I took from I-15, seems to indicate another solar power project using a different solar power
technology. It may be using thin film photovoltaic panels-modules. This area is near Primm on Nevada side of
the Nevada-California border and may be only a few miles northeast of the Ivanpah Solar Power Plant
described above. This may be the Nevada Solar Power Plant as described in the following news article:
This picture taken on April 24, 2012 in another area along I-15 seems to be a large array of cylindrical solar
reflecting mirrors (i.e., . Parabolic Trough mirrors.). I am not quite sure about this location, may be Daggett,
California between I-15 and I-40.
Furthermore, when we were driving on Mojave Desert near the Kramer Junction at the junction of Highway 58
and Highway 395, we saw another huge area of arrays of long cylindrical solar reflecting mirrors. It is the
location of Kramer Junction Company Solar Electric Generating Station which is the largest solar energy
generating facility in the world. The video at the following YouTube website provides good demonstration of
the solar tracking operation of such long cylindrical solar reflecting mirrors and the huge arrays of such
cylindrical solar reflecting mirrors at this location:
Another similar large Solar Electric Generating Station known as Nevada Solar One at Boulder, Nevada can
be seen at the following YouTube website:
Thus, in our April 2012 tour of Mojave Desert, we saw at least three different kinds of solar power
technologies and systems either in operation for several years now or are being deployed.
Although 2012 is not a good year for desert wildflowers such that we did not see the spectacular orange sea of
California Poppy on the California Poppy Reserve in April 2012, we did see a lot of blooming California Poppy
along both sides of the paved roads near the California Poppy Reserve as shown in the picture above.
Similarly, when we were driving on paved Highway 169 going to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada on May 1,
2012, we saw a lot of yellow wildflowers blooming along both sides of the paved highway 169, but there were
practically no flowers about 5 feet or more away from the roadside of the paved road.
Similarly, when we were driving on paved Highway 169 going to Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada on May
1, 2012, the desert grass/plants along both sides of paved Highway 169 are much greener than those a few
feet or more away from the roadside of paved Highway 169.
These observations indicate that desert grass and desert wildflowers seem to grow and bloom much better
along the roadside of paved roads in desert areas as compared to those five feet or more away from
roadside. A possible explanation is that the life of desert grass and desert wildflowers is very sensitive to and
heavily dependent on the amount of received precious rain water. When it rains in desert, the surface of a
paved road does not absorb rain water like dry desert soil. In other words, the rain water on the paved road
surface runs off into both sides of the road such that the desert grass and desert wildflower on the roadside
of a paved road receive much more precious rain water than those 5 feet or more away from the roadside do.
Therefore, desert grass and desert wildflowers thrive along the roadsides of paved roads.
Therefore, Mojave Desert is a pretty busy place with many features of interest to visitors, such as singing sand
dunes (one at Kelso and two in Death Valley), Rainbow Basin Natural Area, Antelope Valley California Poppy
Reserve, California Aqueduct/Los Angeles Aqueduct, Death Valley National Park, Trona Pinnacles National
Natural Landmark, Devils Hole, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Tehachapi Pass Windmills Farm,
Ivanpah Solar Power Plant Facility, Kramer Junction Company Solar Electric Generating Station, Cushenbury
Limestone Quarry, Cushenbury Cement Plant, volcanic cinder cones, volcanic lava beds, Red Rock Canyon
State Park (of California), Desert Studies Center at Zzyzx, etc.
Two views in Red Rock Canyon State Park which is located on the northwestern edge of Mojave Desert in
We arrived at this Red Rock Canyon State Park in California in the late afternoon of April 25, 2012 while we
were driving from Los Angeles to Lone Pine. The Red Rock walls in this State Park are facing east. So, in
late afternoon, the sun is behind these red rock walls. Without direct sunshine, the colors of these red rock
walls are subdued substantially.
In the morning when the morning sunshine is shining directly on these red rock walls, the colors can be very
vivid and beautiful as shown on the page header of following website:
Therefore, we came to Red Rock Canyon State Park in California at the wrong time of late afternoon and
cannot see the fantastic colors of these red rock walls. Such understanding gives us an incentive to come
back here again in the morning in a future trip.
While the Red Rock Canyon area had been visited by travelers for many years, it was the discovery of gold in
the area that brought the first large influx of people. Due to its spectacular rock formations, pristine desert
landscape and proximity to Hollywood-Los Angeles, Red Rock Canyon has frequently been used as a filming
location for many science fiction and western movies, as well as TV shows.
My report on Death Valley National Park including Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark and Devils Hole
is at the following Travelogue web page:
These three rock walls in Red Rock Canyon State Park are facing west and are getting direct sunshine in
late afternoon such that their colors are much stronger and beautiful. Such difference confirms that we may
tour Mojave Desert again in a future trip:
1. To visit this Red Rock Canyon State Park again in the morning to get the best colorful pictures of this Red
2. To take spectacular panoramic picture of California Poppy Reserve in a good year of desert wildflowers,
3. The Ivanpath Solar Power Plant will be in operation with 347,000 heliostats (sun-tracking mirrors)
surrounding the three huge centralized solar power towers. That will be fantastic sights for photography.
4. The huge forest of wind turbines at Tehachapi Pass would have been expanded to more that 50 square
miles and becomes the largest in USA. Again, that will be fantastic sights for photography.
The reason for my interest in such wind turbine farms and solar farms is described in the Appendix below.
Appendix: Progress in Battery Technology for Clean and Renewable Energy
The life expectancies of people living in developing countries with heavily polluted air and environment are
mostly shorter by 10 years or more than those in highly developed countries with clean air and clean
This is a good motivation to use clean and renewable energy sources such as wind turbine farm or solar panel
farm instead of the old and dirty fossil fuels for electric power generation.
In last 40 years, the wind turbine technology and solar power technology have gone through several
generations of improvements and cost reduction to make them cost effective, reliable and practical.
However, one serious obstacle is the weather. The electric power generated from a wind turbine farm may
not be reliable because there is no wind in certain time period. Similarly, the electric power generated from a
solar farm may not be reliable because it may be at night with no sun or it may be a raining day or a snowing
day with no sun. So, cost effective storage of energy for use during “bad” weather conditions has been an
important issue for such clean and renewable energy systems.
Fortunately, cost effective solution for this issue is available now as described below.
New forms of lower cost electricity storage are making the electric power grid more renewable, more reliable,
cleaner and at lower cost.
"This will be like the change from analog to digital, or landlines to cell phones,” says Advanced Microgrid
Systems CEO Susan Kennedy, whose firm’s software helps utilities optimize their power choices every instant
of every day. “The energy industry will never be the same.”
According to the survey data from BloombergNEF (Bloomberg New Energy Finance Limited Company), the
cost of lithium-ion batteries has plunged 85 percent in a decade, and 30 percent in just the past year (2018).
Two strong driving forces for this downward cost trend come from the transitions in the automotive industry
away from dirty internal combustion engine vehicles into clean electric vehicles and in electric power markets
away from dirty fossil fuels into clean and renewable energy sources, such as wind power and solar power.
With lower cost storage batteries, electric utility companies across the U.S. have started attaching containers
full of lithium-ion batteries to the electric power grid—and they’re planning to install far more of them in the
coming years. Electricity has always been the toughest commodity to manage, because unlike water, grain,
fuel or steel, historically electric power has been largely very difficult and expensive to store for later use. But
that is changing fast, and even though the dramatic growth of batteries on the grid will be invisible to most
Americans, it has the potential to transform how we produce and consume power, creating more flexible and
resilient electricity systems with less waste, lower costs and fewer pollution emissions.
Thanks to the dizzying cost declines, utilities are now building new wind and solar farms accompanied by new
battery storage for less than they would pay to build new fossil-fuel electricity generation plants—and in some
cases less than they would pay to run existing fossil-fuel plants. Pairing renewable electric energy sources
with battery storage lets electric power grid operators fill in gaps when the weather isn’t cooperating and
dispatch power in more predictable ways when it’s needed most
Jigar Shah, the founder of the pioneering solar company Sun Edison and now the president of the clean
energy finance firm Generate Capital, believes hundreds of billions of dollars worth of fossil-fueled peaker
pollution plants that often run just a few hundred hours a year might soon be mothballed for good.
Southwest Power Pool in USA now routinely handles 50 percent and even 60 percent of electric power
generation from wind while keeping the lights on without interruption. There was one afternoon last month
when California’s grid was receiving more than two-thirds of its power from solar with no reliability problems at
Sample references for such rapid trend of cost reduction in energy storage batteries can be seen here and
For longer term future, in addition to the rapid reduction in the cost of lithium-ion battery, other new energy
storage technologies may become mature and available that may further lower the cost of energy storage.