We Bought Fly Ranch

What’s in a Gift? The Making of Fly Ranch
July 21, 2016
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We Bought Fly Ranch

Wait, what? Burning Man Project has purchased the Fly Ranch property, 3,800 acres of land located twenty-one miles north of Gerlach in Washoe County, Nevada.

Wait, what?

Burning Man Project has purchased the Fly Ranch property, 3,800 acres of land located twenty-one miles north of Gerlach in Washoe County, Nevada.


Why? Here’s the gist of it: Those who have been deeply affected by a Burning Man event or experience have often asked, “How can we bring this beyond the event?” “How can we make this really matter?”  And we too have wondered, “What would it mean to have a year-round location beyond the playa? What if we had a place to experiment with and apply the Ten Principles 365 days a year, in addition to the one-week event?”

In 2012 we became a nonprofit with the intention of amplifying and extending Burning Man culture. So here we are, taking a big step in that direction. As a year-round site, Fly Ranch has the potential to expand Burning Man Project’s activities and existing programs, as well as amplify Burning Man’s cultural impact into the wider world beyond Black Rock City.


Buying the property is the first step on a long journey. As stewards of this unique piece of land, our foremost responsibility is to ensure it will be maintained for generations to come. This will require planning and preparation. We have to lay the groundwork first. Then, we’ll spend the next few years exploring the possibilities for Fly Ranch.

Check out the Fly Ranch website to get involved!

You may be asking yourself, “What does this mean for us? What can we do with this? How will this benefit the community?” The answers will unfold slowly, over a period of time. We’re a long way from defining exactly what will happen at Fly Ranch, but it’s not too early to begin dreaming of the potential. We’re inspired by this milestone and hope you are too. At this stage there are simply more questions than answers.


What we do know is this: Fly Ranch opens the door to new possibilities, new cultural experiments, and art and innovation projects on a scale never before envisioned. We also know that community participation will be essential. Fly Ranch will be a collaborative endeavor requiring a vast array of skills, ideas, and contributions.

Securing a year-round location for decades to come at Fly Ranch is the next step in the grand experiment that is Burning Man.

Check out the video below and read on for more information, including how you can get involved.


1. What is Fly Ranch?

Fly Ranch is a roughly 3,800-acre parcel of land located 21 miles north of Gerlach, Nevada. The property has 640 acres of wetlands, dozens of natural spring-water pools ranging in temperature from hot to cold, sagebrush-grasslands, and a small area of playa that opens onto the Hualapai Flat. The land’s most prominent feature is the stunning Fly Geyser, a unique and iconic geothermal geyser that constantly releases water reaching five feet in the air, depositing minerals and multi-colored algae on the terraces surrounding it. The Fly Ranch property is truly an oasis in the desert.

The geyser itself is not entirely naturally occurring. It’s the result of some drilling done in 1964 in search of sources of geothermal energy. The well was likely not capped properly, which created the geyser. And why is it called “Fly” Ranch? Is there a bug problem? No. It’s believed the name in reference to flight. Accordingly to local Gerlachian lore, in the 1930s there was a biplane training facility on the property.


2. Why did Burning Man Project purchase Fly Ranch?

Burning Man’s connection to Fly Ranch goes back nearly 20 years, and the organization has long imagined purchasing it. If you were at the event in 1997 you may remember soaking in the waters of Fly Geyser, since Black Rock City was built on the Fly Ranch property bordering Hualapai Flat that year.

When Burning Man Project established itself as a nonprofit in 2012, the organization set out to create a rural center for Burning Man culture as part of the original six Program Areas. The intention was for Burning Man Project to create “rural centers and spaces that incubate and showcase collaborative and interactive arts, culture, and community participation.” This purchase is a huge step toward making that dream a reality. Fly Ranch will be one of the ways Burning Man engages with the world alongside Black Rock City, Burning Man Arts, the Regional Network, and Burners Without Borders.

In the future, this land will offer new ways for people to participate in Burning Man culture. Activities at Fly will fuel the spirit and expand the possibilities of Black Rock City. This is all part of the evolution of Burning Man from an ephemeral experiment into a global cultural movement having an impact on social, economic and artistic norms and structures. Burning Man’s culture is becoming more recognized and influential around the world, but Black Rock City has been at capacity since 2011. We simply can’t fit all the clowns in the clown car.


3. What will Burning Man do with Fly Ranch?

Fly Ranch is a new initiative based on some compelling questions we’ve been asking for a long time. Namely, if we had a permanent place to build and play:

  • What happens when the Burning Man community is invited to co-create at a year-round site beyond Black Rock City?
  • Should Burning Man create a laboratory to experiment with shelter, energy, environmentalism, new models of living, working and governance, and other innovations that could drive social change?
  • What if we had access to a year-round location to showcase large-scale outdoor art sculptures?

We believe these questions are worthy of meaningful exploration, and this purchase is an investment in that belief. We hope Fly Ranch and the activities, events, and dreams that can be realized there will increase and accelerate Burning Man’s capacity to create lasting positive change in the world.

Like Black Rock City, Fly Ranch will be a collaboration. Burning Man Project has secured the land and, in time, will create a context for community participation and immersive experiences. It is our hope that participants will join us in contributing to the ‘content’ in the form of ideas, skills, dreams, and creations.


4.  Is Black Rock City moving to Fly Ranch?

No. Black Rock City will not relocate to Fly Ranch, or to the adjacent Hualapai playa. The property is not suitable for the size and scope of Black Rock City as we now know it. The potential of the Fly Ranch Project is strongest during the other 51 weeks of the year, when the inspiration of Burning Man is searching for a foothold in what was once called the “default world”.

5. Where did the money come from?

Burning Man Project purchased Fly Ranch for the price of $6.5 million. The funding came from Burners who have been deeply affected by the spirit and principles of Burning Man, and felt called to give back to the community by enabling us to explore the potential of having a year-round home. The money did not come from ticket revenue, vehicle passes, coffee sales, general donations to the nonprofit Burning Man Project, or any previously existing source of Burning Man income.

All of the donors have contributed in the true spirit of gifting; they did not request and they will not receive any special access or ongoing control over Fly Ranch, Black Rock City, or Burning Man Project. In celebration of our gifting principle, there is no quid pro quo, and their gift is to the entire community.

These gifts were only possible because of our transition into a nonprofit. This new structure allowed us to make this endeavor possible, and enables us to expand the possibilities for our community and for Burning Man culture.

More information about the donors behind this project will be available in the coming days and weeks.


6. Can I go there?

Eventually, but not yet!

Purchasing the property is just the first step in a very long process.

Immediate access to the property is not possible (lots of scoping and planning must be completed first), but our intention is for it to be accessible in the future in an ongoing and sustainable way. The Black Rock Desert, home to Black Rock City, provides ample space but a shortage of time. Fly Ranch is a much smaller space, but with potential year-round access, it offers the gift of time. Eventually we’ll be able to create more opportunities spread out throughout the year.

Note: Do not try to visit Fly Ranch during Burning Man 2016. Seriously. Access will not be permitted. In the interest of personal safety, environmental protection, and liability, please stay in Black Rock City. We’re just not there yet, folks.

7. How does this purchase serve the mission of the Burning Man Project?

The mission of the Burning Man Project is to amplify and extend the culture born from the Burning Man event into the larger world, and Fly Ranch is an opportunity to do just that.

When Burning Man Project received its 501c3 status, it did so based on six program areas, one of which describes establishing rural and urban centers. The cultural program intends to “locate, evaluate, acquire, manage, operate, and maintain all Project facilities, sites, networks and real estate, which will be developed and operated using innovative technologies and renewable energy.” Fly Ranch will help realize that intention, and it has the potential to become a platform for many if not all of Burning Man Project’s existing programs and activities (learn more in our Annual Report).

New communities form at Burning Man events across the globe every year. People coalesce around projects, learn new skills, build relationships, and then do amazing things in the world. Fly Ranch is an opportunity for these communities to experiment on a bigger, more long-term canvas, and for whole new communities to form year-round through arts and civic engagement. We believe this will change the world because we know it already has.


8. Why this land in particular?

Ever since the Burning Man event was held at Fly Ranch in 1997, this special place has taken up residence in our hearts and in the imagination of the Burning Man community.

Although the organization has offices in San Francisco and there are robust Burner communities and events around the globe, the spirit of Burning Man has a profound connection to the isolated beauty and expansive possibilities of Northern Nevada and the Black Rock Desert. We have a long history with the landscape and are members of the local community. We have actually been local landowners for many years. In 2001 Burning Man purchased Black Rock Station, 200 acres directly adjacent to Fly Ranch, which, in addition to parcels in the town of Gerlach, we use to house event-related facilities and storage, and to meet other key infrastructure needs for Black Rock City.

We also believe in the power of removing oneself from the urban, built environment and crossing the threshold into wild, open landscape. Remoteness is a key attribute to Black Rock City and, we believe, to the additional events and engagements we’d like to see at Fly Ranch.

9. How will this purchase affect the local towns of Gerlach and Empire?

The intention is to have a positive impact on local communities, culturally as well as economically.

While Black Rock City has an enormous economic impact on Northern Nevada, it all happens in a very short timeframe. This also comes with inconvenience to local towns in the form of highway congestion. A much smaller but steady flow of people traveling to and from Fly Ranch may actually be of more economic benefit year-round at little if any inconvenience.

Burning Man Project is used to being a neighbor and a participating member of the local community and looks forward to collaborating with Empire, Gerlach, the Paiute Tribe and others to ensure a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

10. How can I get involved?

In the coming months and years (because honestly, projects of this magnitude take time), there will be many opportunities to participate in visioning the future of Fly Ranch. We will need your time, energy, expertise, and ideas. Of course this project will also need financial support to realize and explore new ideas, if you feel inspired to contribute to Fly Ranch, you can follow this link.

In the coming weeks there will be more information and ways for you to join the conversation. While this is really exciting and we can’t wait to get started, right now we’re in the thick of preparing for Black Rock City 2016, and won’t really be able to dive in until after the event. If you want raise your hand (yay, do-ocracy!) to be involved in visioning the the future of Fly Ranch, or want to offer support now, head over to flyranch.burningman.org.

11. So you’re not moving to Utah, then?

Nope, guess not.

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