One of several dune fields within Death Valley National Park, the Mesquite Flat dunes owe their existence to the local terrain which slow the winds in the area so that they drop their cargo of sand. To the south rise the Tucki Mountains. To the east rise the Grapevine and Funeral Mountains. The main source of sand for the dunes is thought to come from the Cottonwood Mountains to the north and northwest.
An ancient lake bed underlies all the dunes and shows in some places between dunes. Creosote and mesquite create havens for wildlife. The largest dune, Star dune, rises 140 feet above sea level and is formed at the convergence of several prevailing winds in the valley. In addition to star shaped dunes, the field contains crescent and linear dunes as well.