White Sands National Monument



White Sands National Monument is a gigantic sandbox full of large undulating gypsum dunes that cover 275 square miles of the Tularosa Basin in southeastern New Mexico. In fact, it's the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Gypsum dunes don't readily retain heat and you can scramble around on them barefooted, even at the height of summer. The park is also home to some unique flora and fauna that are well adapted for life amongst the dunes.

The park was designated a National Monument on January 18, 1933 by President Herbert Hoover, but has yet to achieve World Heritage Site or National Park status, mostly for political reasons. White Sands National Monument is surrounded by military installations (White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base). This close relationship has been pretty contentious at times, what with misguided missiles and low flying jets and road closures and such.

The visitor center, ranger residences, some maintenance buildings, and the bathrooms were constructed in pueblo style in the late 1930s. I went to White Sands in April of 2019, and I can tell you from personal experience the bathrooms were definitely showing their age. However I understand they are due for a makeover later in 2019. Of course there are also a couple of nice gift shops run by the White Sands Trading Company.



Park sign


Visitor Center


Visitor Center


Gift shop


Gift shop


Courtyard


Interdunal Area

This is the area between and around the edges of dunes where there are enough nutrients in the soil to support plant life. There are a couple of easy trails in this area that are worth taking. The Playa Trail is an easy 0.5 mile out and back walk along exhibits and intermittent water holes (playas). The Interdune Boardwalk is an elevated boardwalk 0.2 miles in length that leads you through the interdune area to a scenic view of the dunefield and the Sacramento mountains. The 0.4 mile round trip is an easy 20 minute walk. There are exhibits along the way.



Interpretive sign


Desert playa


My little Scamp


Playa and interdunal vegetation


Soaptree yucca interpretive sign


Soaptree Yucca


Soaptree Yucca


Could be Rosemary Mint?


White dunes and white clouds


Interdune boardwalk


Into the Dunes

The park road (Dunes Drive) ends at the Heart of the Sands day use and picnic area. The most popular activity here is dune sledding, with picnicing a close second.



Big dune


These are the coolest picnic shelters ever


Life on the dunes


A girl and her dune sled


Really white sand


Could be the San Andres Mountains?


Heart of the Sands picnic area


Background content obtained from Wikipedia.
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