Mushroom Rock | Death Valley National Park, California
Mushroom Rock, a Forgotten Waypoint in Death Valley National Park
Mushroom Rock, a once-familiar “must see” feature for all visitors of Death Valley National Park, California, is now all but forgotten! It’s located on Badwater Road in Death Valley North of the exit to Artist’s Drive. You will certainly miss it if you don’t know it’s there. Yet, there was once a road sign and parking area at Mushroom Rock and most visitors posed for pictures at the rock. Over time the wind, sand and water that formed Mushroom Rock continued to chip away, narrowing the thin central portion, eventually breaking off the upper edges. It may be due to the fragile condition of mushroom rock that the parking area and sign disappeared. Or, possibly the popular waypoint sign and parking were discontinued as Mushroom Rock lost some of its original luster. However, even today Mushroom Rock is pretty impressive and worth a stop.
A Memorable Sandstorm at Mushroom Rock in Death Valley
I can remember once, as a high schooler, shielding myself from the stinging, biting sand of a ferocious Death Valley sandstorm behind Mushroom Rock. It was on the return trip during a bike ride between Furnace Creek and Badwater. I realized that the same sand chipping away at me had, over time, formed Mushroom Rock!
Geological History of Mushroom Rock in Death Valley
Mushroom Rock is a sandstone hoodoo, which is a column or pillar of rock that has been eroded into a distinctive shape over time.
The formation of Mushroom Rock dates back millions of years when the floor of Death Valley was covered by ancient Lake Manly. The sand and silt that were deposited at the bottom of the lake were later cemented into sandstone. As the lake eventually dried up, the exposed sandstone was subject to the forces of erosion from wind and water, which gradually sculpted the rock into its distinctive mushroom-like shape.
Over time, the softer layers of rock around the base of the column were eroded away, leaving the harder sandstone cap on top. The cap protects the softer rock below from further erosion, creating the unique shape of Mushroom Rock that we see today.