The White Sands have been around a long time, as much as 10,000 years. At 275 square miles, it is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. The origin of the dune field is thought to stem from the fact that the area is a closed basin. That means it has no natural drain to the ocean. As a result, the gypsum–which is water soluble and usually readily transported to the sea–was trapped when the ancient Lake Otero went dry during the last ice age.
As early as 1870, the area attracted scientific interest. After many failed attempts to add the area to the National Park System, President Hoover declared a portion of it–142, 987 acres–as a national monument in the last days of his administration (January 1933). Many of the National Park Service’s facilities there date back to the Works Progress Administration (1930s). Interestingly, the sands are not stationary. The most active dunes move to the northeast up to 30 feet a year.
You have to get out in the dunes to truly appreciate the scale of White Sands National Monument. You can just walk over a few dunes and lose sight of any identifying landmark.
I have visited this special place multiple times.
Weaving a rail theme into this post, this Union Pacific freight barrelled by one time as I was arriving at the National Monument.
The White Sands area is filled mystery. One of my favorites is the The Lost Victorio Peak Treasure. The Legend of Pavla Blanca is colorful as well. Click on the links to check them out. These are only two of many mysteries revolving around the White Sands area and nearby.
This wraps up our “Road trip further west.” Hope you enjoyed it.