How’s the playa? It’s fantastic!

One of the key questions leading up to Burning Man is always  … HOW’S THE PLAYA THIS YEAR??

Well, I’m happy to report that it is amaaaaazing. I’ve never seen it so flat and firm in eight years of coming here. You veterans know what a difference that makes, and for you  first-timers, I think you’re in for a treat.

There was a LOT of rain on the playa over the winter. In fact, it showed up in October, when the Playa Restoration crew had to do their work in ankle-deep water. And the water stayed around in places until last month!

And that’s exactly what the playa needed. It was like a hard reboot for the desert, because when it gets good and inundated, it tamps everything down the way it’s supposed to be.

There’s still going to be dust, and plenty of it, so definitely bring your goggles and face masks. All the cars and trucks and RVs are going to pulverize the hard crust on the desert floor now, and the wind is going to send it all flying through everything.

But it should be a lot easier getting around, especially in the far reaches of the playa. There aren’t many of those nasty, thigh-grinding piles that make you get off the bike and walk. We think it’ll be a lot easier getting around, for sure.

The funkiest area is in the open playa between around 1 and 3; there is a pretty good number of mounds out there.

But overall, things are really really good!

There are cracks on the desert floor about an inch and half deep. Under that it's dark and firm.


And here's what it looks like if you pick up one of those clumps.


Most of the floor is smooth and hard, perfect for biking around.


There are some mounds in the further reaches, out between 1 and 3.


About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

10 Comments on “How’s the playa? It’s fantastic!

  • Jenn says:

    Now that BM is sold out, no need to spread the “worst playa year ever” rumors! :)

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  • Punky says:

    It looks awesome out there. Wish I could have made it this year. I’ll see you guys next year!

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  • Papa says:

    With that news, my small MV just let out a huge sigh of relief…

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  • Sandman says:

    If I’m not mistaken, that last picture is Old Razorback Mountain.

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  • MattyG says:

    I am going to win these comments by posting this video of the Playa from this year!


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  • Carolyn says:

    Do you know what temperatures it has been recently on the playa, day and night? Warmer then usual, normal, colder? Just curious.

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  • Deb says:

    Carolyn, I am a local and the temps have been cooler than normal. We never made triple digets. But it has been in the high 80’s low 90’s pretty much all summer. It feels cooler at night lately but I think you can count on high 80’s during the day and high 50’s at night.

    That is my humble forcast for the year!

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  • Robert says:

    I was out on the playa about two weeks ago star gazing and during the day when I was driving towards black rock point I hit some mud. I was suprised there hasn’t been rain out here for awhile, it was left over from the wet winter. The temperatures were great. Not to hot and just chilly enough at night to encourage cuddeling.

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  • Ruleryak says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I have to say it’s the most important blog post I read every year and appreciate that it remains in your awareness, you wonderful setup-crew folks! Being able to pick tires and plan accordingly is always a plus and I’m sure we’d all want to know well in advance if we’re ever looking at another repeat of the conditions we saw in 2008 for example. Thanks again!

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  • Lucky Vargas says:

    My heart aches for home, but, alas, will have to be put off for another year. Enjoy the conditions my tribe.

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