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Christian Eede
5 September 2023, 13:12

Burning Man attendees begin exodus as road reopens

Thousands of people were stranded on site over the weekend after heavy rainfall left roads in and out of the site deeply muddy

Burning Man attendees begin exodus as road reopens

Attendees of this year's Burning Man festival in the northern Nevada desert have slowly begun to leave the site, with muddy roads that left tens of thousands of people stranded for days having finally dried up enough to make travel possible.

The festival had been closed to vehicles for a number of days after more than half an inch (1.3cm) of rain fell on Friday, causing flooding and foot-deep mud on site. Organisers had insisted that people not attempt to leave the site by vehicle or on foot through this past weekend.

Festival organisers finally let traffic start to flow out of the main road by the festival at about 2pm local time (10pm BST) on Monday, with a staggered exit among attendees encouraged in order to minimise further disruption. Around 64,000 people remained at the festival site as of Monday afternoon, according to the team behind the festival.

Burning Man traditionally comes to an end with the burning of two structures, usually a large wooden effigy shaped like a man and a wood temple structure, over the course of the festival's final two nights, but both fires were postponed this year as authorities worked to deal with the chaos caused over the weekend by the rainfall.

The first of those two fires has now gone ahead, with the second set to take place sometime on Tuesday, 5th September. The National Weather Service said conditions would stay mostly clear and dry at the festival site, although there were some further light rain showers scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Burning Man is an annual festival in which attendees are encouraged to build a temporary city in the desert and 'leave no trace' at the end of it. The event, which attracts around 80,000 visitors every year, began on 27th August and had been originally scheduled to finish on Monday morning.

One person died at this year's edition of the festival, who police have identified as 32-year-old Leon Reece, but organisers have said his passing was not related to the weather trouble. 

The festival didn't start without a hitch this year either, with traffic into the event heavily disrupted last week by action carried out by climate activists.

The theme of this year's festival was 'Animalia', with attendees encouraged to "celebrate the animal world and our place in it".