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A Very Muddy Timeline Of The Burning Man Fiasco

A Very Muddy Timeline Of The Burning Man Fiasco

A Very Muddy Timeline Of The Burning Man Fiasco

I’m sure you’ve seen online that the 2023 Burning Man festival has turned to absolute shit. I mean that both literally and figuratively as around 70,000 people are essentially trapped in the Nevada desert after heavy storms flooded the festival grounds.

We’re no stranger to a music festival being turned into a swamp that Shrek would be envious of. Everyone remembers Splendour In The Grass (mud) last year, but what’s happening at Burning Man seems to be something resembling a plague straight out of the Old Testament. 

Extreme weather battered the state of Nevada causing flash flooding in Las Vegas and turned Black Rock desert — where Burning Man is held and is turned into a one-week temporary city called “Black Rock City” visited by hundreds of white girls in braids and social media influencers— into a muddy hellscape. “Burners” have now been asked to find shelter where they are, conserve food and water, and not attempt to leave the area until the mud dries up. As you can imagine, everything is a mess and people have taken to social media to share their experiences. Aussie icon Casey Donovan being one of them. 

In fact, there’s a rumour going around X that Ebola has broken out at Black Rock City and that Diplo is a potential superspreader. These claims haven’t been proven to be true which makes sense considering that’s possibly one of the strangest things that could happen. But seriously, can you imagine the absolute disaster that would be? 

It’s also been reported that local police are investigating a death that occurred at Burning Man during the storm which is tragic. 

So yeah, there’s a lot going on. To make sense of it all, I’ve broken down the chaos so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

August 27: Climate Protesters Block Access To Burning Man 

The nine day Burning Man festival had a rocky start after climate protesters blocked access to Black Rock City two-lane highway creating a massive traffic jam that pissed off a lot of Burners. 

Protestors were fuelled by how horrific Burning Man is for the environment — which generates around 100,000 tons of carbon — so they parked a trailer across the road and set up signs and banners that prevented anyone getting through to the desert. The protest lasted around an hour before officers from Pyramid Lake Ranger Station (a tribal law enforcement agency, which sounds very gross) essentially drove through the barricade and threatened to “take all of you out” if they didn’t move. An officer then pulled out his gun and handcuffed protesters. 

The intensity and force of the rangers to the protestors is hard to watch. What’s interesting is that some Indigenous people from the reservation near Black Rock City asked the protestors to leave. And when Indigenous people tell you to leave their land, you probably should listen.


Burning Man is declared a natural disaster just a week after climate blockade protest on August 27, 2023, where climate protesters attempted to block the road to Burning Man. #fypfyprburningmanr#burningman2023

♬ original sound – Brenna Lip

August 28: There’s A Sex Plane

The first thing I saw about 2023 Burning Man was this video about how to join the “Mile High Club” during the festival. At first I just assumed people were bumping uglies on their way to the festival but I was oh so wrong. 

Turns out there’s actually a plane at Burning Man that will fly couples up and around Black Rock City and the Nevada desert while they have sex in the back. I have so many questions and such little time. 

I just want to know why on earth you’d want to have sex on a tiny plane in full view of a pilot. That’s the least romantic thing I could think of. The entire time I would be so anxious that the plane would fall out of the sky and crash and first responders would see my half naked body in the middle of a sex act. Anyways, moving on.


Burning Man is declared a natural disaster just a week after climate blockade protest on August 27, 2023, where climate protesters attempted to block the road to Burning Man. #fypfyprburningmanr#burningman2023

♬ original sound – Brenna Lip

August 28: Things Are Alive And Well At Burning Man 

From all accounts, Burning Man was in full swing and everyone was having the time of their lives. From this X (or Tweet, or whatever) it looks like Vivid on steroids. That’s if Vivid was in the middle of a desert and was centered around lighting everyone on fire.

There’s almost something eerie about reading the comments under this post of people praising the event and saying how good it is. One user said it gets better and better every year. Very calm before the storm, so to speak. 

September 1: Diplo Wakes Festival Goers Up Djing At Sunrise In A Hot Air Balloon 

It seems like Burning Man participants are big fans of air travel because Diplo posted a TikTok of him doing a sunrise DJ set. I, for one, would hate nothing more than being pestered by a Diplo in a hot air balloon waking me up at the crack of dawn to play awful music. But hey, to each their own I guess.


wake up people of the playa #burningman

♬ original sound – Diplo

But then, everything took a turn for the worse.

September 2: Burning Man Becomes Raining Man 

On Friday (US time), it is believed that around 15 centimetres of rain fell at Black Rock City with further heavy rains pummeling the surrounding desert. As you can imagine, this caused the entire ground to turn into a deep, filthy mud pit that rendered it impossible for people to walk through, let alone drive through.

In response, Burning Man organisers said that the gate (there’s only one) and airport into Black Rock City was closed. They also banned driving in and out of the area with exception to emergency vehicles. Meaning that tens of thousands of people are now essentially stranded in the Nevada desert with limited supplies. 

Organisers then released a survival guide which essentially urged Burning Man attendees to check on one another, find shelter in place, conserve food and water, and to stay informed of any updates.

September 3: Joe Biden Briefed, Vehicles Trapped In Mud, People Still In “Good Spirits” Despite Bathroom Overflow 

Rain continued to fall over the weekend and despite being told not to, people attempted to drive out of Black Rock City. What happened? They got trapped in the mud. Shocking.

However, It seems like the Burning Man community has banded together who are mostly “unfazed” by the whole situation. People are still playing music, getting to know one another, and helping out with cooking meals. How wholesome of them.


Burning Man Flood Update. There is no ebola, FEMA or fence being built. We are having a great time! #fyp #burningman2023 #burningman #blackrockcity #floodedman

♬ original sound – Angie Peacock, MSW, CPC

I’m interested to see how long that lasts though because a main concern at the festival is the lack of toilets because the trucks can’t access the site properly to clean the portable loos. See what I meant by things have turned to shit?

Oh, and U.S. President Joe Biden has reportedly been briefed on the unfolding situation at the 2023 Burning Man Festival. I can only imagine how confused he was.

September 3: Diplo Flees The Scene With Chris Rock, Randomly 

Diplo, famous for waking people up on hot air balloons, said that he walked five miles — which is like eight kilometres — out of Burning Man in the mud before a fan picked him and Chris Rock up and drove them out.

I guess that hot air balloon was nowhere to be seen when he needed it most. Hope it’s doing alright, I kind of miss it.

September 3: They Are Still Burning The Man 

The latest update we have from organisers is that the roads in Black Rock City are still too wet and muddy to open them for everyone to leave. Or for “Exodus” as organisers call it. However, they believe they will be able to open the gates on Monday morning (US time). Hotels in Reno — a nearby city — have been informed about the situation and are expecting lots of people to come to stay as they make their way home. 

Organisers also said that the annual Man Burn won’t happen on Sunday night as it usually does but it is scheduled for Monday night now. The literal last thing I would care about if I were at Burning Man would be if a giant structure of a man gets set on fire or not. 

I can’t wait for the documentary that is ultimately going to be made about this.

Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and writer at Junkee. Follow them on X

Image credit: Lee Fang / X

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