President Herbert Hoover declared White Sands a National Monument in 1933. It was created to protect the wave-like dunes of gypsum sand that have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dune field. We took a trip to the park in March. We had driven by the entrance several times over the last few years and this trip it was a destination. We hadn’t been in the park in over 20 years.
White Sands lives in the neighborhood of White Sands Missile Range. This creates the possibility of the park being closed for a few hours to accommodate testing. There were no issues the day of our visit, but you can call ahead to confirm the park will be open all day. We enjoyed beautiful blue skies with clouds and a beach with no ocean in sight!!
The sand reminds you of a handful of salt, it’s that fine. It sure did accentuate every crack and crevice in my hand. Where’s the hand lotion when you need it?
What reminds you of snow seems to stretch on forever. It would be easy to get lost out here. The dunes are like a rolling stone, constantly in motion and moving as much as 30 feet per year.
Vegetation and animals have adapted to survive the freezing cold of winter nights and the relentless sun with 100 plus temperatures in summer. This yucca has staked it’s claim. We learned, from the film in the visitor’s center, a yucca can grow over 30 feet to keep it’s head above the sand. What happens when the dune shifts and exposes the base of the yucca?
As more of the stalk is revealed, the weight cannot be supported and the yucca begins to collapse. You can find these collapsing plants throughout the park.
Nature is amazing as to how she adapts plants for survival and to slow down the progression of movement.
Sometimes the gypsum solidifies into a rock like form. As you can see, no place is safe from graffiti.
This rock is looking out and remembering the days when it use to ebb and flow with the wind.
What is amazing about gypsum, unlike the sand at the beach, it stays cool no matter the intensity of the summer sun. It’s perfect for walking and sledding any time of year. White Sands is a family destination for picnics and sledding. If you forget to bring your dish, you can buy or rent one in the gift shop at the visitor’s center. Despite being the middle of the week, we saw many little ones enjoying the thrill of riding the dunes.
We stayed in Las Cruces and drove about 60 miles to visit the park. Alamogordo is less than 15 miles away with plenty of hotels and places to eat, plus interesting science and space museums to visit. In hindsight we should have bought a plastic dish to experience the thrill of riding the dunes. You’re never to old to try something new.
This year the National Parks are celebrating their Centennial. What parks have you visited in 2016? Would enjoy hearing about your adventures in the comments below.
Keep cool and hydrated. Summer is a coming to the Southwest!!