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Burning Man 2023: Insider’s Report on the Muddy Chaos – and Stories

Burning Man

“At this year’s Burning Man event, almost 75,000 participants found themselves unexpectedly caught in a significant storm in the Nevada desert. With severe flooding, organizers were forced to restrict all traffic inside and outside the event, urging participants to take shelter and keep their provisions, water, and other supplies safe.

Prominent figures like DJs and high-profile tech executives were seen arriving at the event in their private jets and limousines. According to DJ’s tweet, actor Chris Rock and DJ Diplo were spotted being lifted by fans in a truck after a five-mile walk. Diplo also mentioned that he walked nearly three hours with Austin Butler, Sandy Crawford, and Hollywood producers. Eventually, attendees were resilient and tried to make the most of their experience despite the muddy, heavy terrain.

Some who were stuck wore plastic bags on their feet to navigate the thick, muddy sludge while carrying their belongings. Labor Day Weekend, once a year, Black Rock City sits on the hot, windy playa, which is a barren place that exists for only nine days.

The Burning Man event

The Burning Man event, famous for its annual celebration, has a history of over 30 years. It’s a vibrant experience filled with drum circles and a social life brimming with installations, spectacular events, and creative individuals known as ‘burners.’

I spoke with Scott London, a longtime Burning Man photographer who was on the ground for all of this, to find out what really happened. Amidst the sensational rumors about Ebola outbreaks, riots, and chaos, there’s an inside perspective from London. Let’s dissect another memorable experience on the Playa.”


“We had prepared for the bad weather. The Black Rock Desert in North America is one of the most inhospitable environments, subject to extreme temperatures, high winds, and dust storms. Another hot and challenging year could have been on the horizon. But very few of us were expecting rain, at least not continuous rain over several days. In my two decades of going to Burning Man, I’ve never come across a situation quite like this one.

Burning Man

The event began with several days of beautiful weather. Crowds gathered around the art installations, deep playa filled with sunrise dance parties, lectures, yoga, Emporium, and theme camps for live jazz. Excitement revolved around art cars shaped like metal dragons, honey bees, and apocalyptic fire-shooting octopuses. ‘The Burn’ started off beautifully.”


“On Thursday, there was a noticeable change as the winds increased, and the temperature began to decline. A massive dust storm swept across the playa, enveloping art pieces like the Temple of the Heart – Artists Eila Medig and Architect Red Finlay’s stunning installation. Burners struggled with goggles and dust masks, but it all added to the experience.”


“On Friday, it rained, and it didn’t stop. Some of us remember a brief rainstorm in 2007 that ended with a double rainbow. In 2014, at the start of Burning Man, there was a light rain that forced organizers to close it temporarily. But these were light showers, and in both cases, the skies cleared up quickly. This was different. Rain-soaked tents, turned the playa’s edges into a soupy mess, trapped cars, and gummed up motorcycles when they were trying to pedal through it.

Burning Man

The desert saga of 70,000 people, but most of the accounts were pure sensationalism.” “It’s true that the rains were unprecedented and posed some significant logistical challenges, especially for those with medical conditions, flights to catch, or jobs to return to. But they were accounts of people who were stuck without food and supplies – or worse, plagued by Ebola or the plague itself. If anything, Burning Man’s ’10 Principles’ includes something we call ‘Radical Self-Reliance.’ We come to Burning Man knowing that desert conditions can be harsh and unpredictable, and we prepare accordingly.

Two other principles are ‘Communal Effort’ and ‘Civic Responsibility.’ We’re bound together and know how to take care of each other. Spirits were high, and wherever I turned, there were acts of kindness, care, and generosity on full display. It feels like most of us took the rain for what it was: a challenge.”


“We were at our camp, with a high likelihood of being gathered in RVs, and seeking shelter under shaded structures and canopies. We stepped out of the dusty Playa to admire art installations or spend time in the temple. We gathered at the sound camps and danced in the mud. And we shared laughter over sensational headlines. Some events were canceled or postponed, including the burning of the Man, but the party continued. Finally, the roads opened, and the exodus began on Monday afternoon, with over 8 hours of waiting to get out.

Burning Man

The festival has advised everyone to wait until traffic subsides and to leave after the Temple burns on Tuesday night. On the slightly less muddy side of the event, Scott London’s beautiful Burning Man: Art on Fire is a must-see, a collection of the best Burning Man art and photography, featuring ‘the world’s greatest’ stories and interviews.

A celebration of artistic expression.” This book, authored by Jennifer Raiser, features forewords by Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell, author Will Chase, and artist Leo Villareal. It contains nearly 250 stunning images spanning over two decades. The updated version presents a comprehensive revision, with over half of the images in the book being new. It also includes a new epilogue about the growing significance of Burning Man art beyond the annual event in the Black Rock Desert, with large-scale exhibitions in museums, cities, and communities worldwide, and now over 100 regional Burning Man events worldwide.”

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