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Burning Man 2023: Road reopens to let campers out, but waits stretch 8 hours

Rainwater puddles in front of the Man effigy at Burning Man 2023. | Source: Maryann Jones Thompson for The Standard

Thousands of people who were marooned at Burning Man 2023 due to rain and mud began leaving the soggy northern Nevada gathering Monday as the playa began to dry out and roads were reopened.

A driving ban was lifted around 2 p.m. Monday. Organizers estimated that, of the 72,000 people who were at the gathering Sunday, 8,000 had left by midday Monday. However, the congestion to get out of Black Rock City was intense.

Hosts on Burning Man Information Radio, streaming at, said at 9 p.m. that it was an eight-hour wait to traverse the few miles to the nearest paved road.

About a quarter-inch of rain fell in the area on Sunday afternoon, but skies were clear Monday.

Just how many people would leave Monday—as a practical matter, or a matter of choice—remained unclear. The event's traditional culmination, the burning of "the Man" effigy, was postponed from Saturday night to Sunday, and then postponed again from Sunday to Monday at 9 p.m. Another installation, the Chapel of Babel, was scheduled to be burned three hours later. The Temple was scheduled to be burned on Tuesday.

The airstrip known as BRC Airport opened at noon Monday, with flights to Reno. On Tuesday, flights starting at 6:30 a.m. were scheduled to Oakland, Burbank and Reno.

A number of Burners who attempted to drive out of Black Rock City on Saturday and Sunday quickly found their RVs and other vehicles stuck in the mud. It was unclear how long it would take to extract them.

An attendee on Burning Man's radio station BMIR described the playa conditions on Monday morning as "an unbaked cake," with the surface looking "crispy" but "gooey underneath." Multiple vehicles had gotten stuck before 8 a.m., he said.

Organizers urged attendees to consider delaying their departure from Black Rock City until Tuesday to alleviate traffic on Monday.

Read more: Burning Man 2023: 7 Truths and 5 Lies About This Year’s Flooding

Organizers were urging participants to "not forget the Leave No Trace and Communal Effort principles" of the gathering, which was originally scheduled to end Monday. However, reports from the site indicated everything from plastic bags to toilet paper and plastic bottles had become stuck in the muck. 

Organizers said Sunday that sanitation trucks were moving through the temporary city, "ensuring portable toilets are functional and clean."

However, the Reno Gazette Journal reported that some of the portable toilets were "quickly becoming disgusting." Some were filled with mud, while others were "littered with empty plastic bottles people had used to store their urine overnight and then poured into the port-a-potties. 

Some attendees began leaving as early as Friday. Organizers said Sunday that shuttle buses were running from the nearest town, Gerlach, to Reno to help those who chose to walk off the playa.

The Pershing County Sheriff's Department said Saturday a person had died at Burning Man and officials were investigating. Burning Man organizers said Sunday the death of the man, who was around 40 years old, was "unrelated to the weather."