White as snow, soft as beach sand and as sparkling as crystal, these aren’t any old sand dunes!
White Sands National Monument is a U.S. National Monument located in New Mexico on Route 70, about 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo, bordering two counties: western Otero County and northeastern Doña Ana County.
The monument sits at an elevation of almost 5,000 ft in the mountainous Tularosa Basin, and comprises the southern part of a 275 sq mile field of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. This gypsum dune field is the largest of its kind on Earth.
World renowned for its dramatic landscape of rare white gypsum sand dunes, White Sands has been used as a location in too many films to cite here, making it one of the most popular destination spots in New Mexico for decades.
The Monument is completely surrounded by military installations (White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base) and has always had a somewhat uneasy relationship with the military.
Errant missiles have been known to fall on WSNM property, in some cases destroying some of the visitor areas. Overflights from Holloman have disturbed the tranquility of the area, causing many New Mexico residents to consistently protest the Military’s continued use of the surrounding area for dangerous missile tests.
When the US Army first discovered the Monument in 1849, the Mescalero Apache were living in the area along with a few Hispanic farming communities around Tularosa and La Luz. The relative peace quiet these people enjoyed, soon ended with the building of Army bases and barracks.
One can still get a sense of how it must have felt back then, to come upon this wonder of Nature in the middle of nowhere, out of the literal blue! Definitely worth a day trip, although one can spend even more time at White Sands, exploring the area.
Backpacking, cycling and taking the Dunes Drive are just a few things you can do t White Sands besides lose yourself in the sheer wonder of the extraordinary beauty, painted by Nature’s brush.
Trails through the dunes include the raised Interdune Boardwalk and the Dune Life Nature Trail, dotted with interpretive exhibits on native flora, wildlife and other features. The Dunes Drive is a looped road from the White Sands Visitor Center to the dune field.
I’ve featured the Monument here before but thought it was time to revisit the stunning beauty of the dunes.
For more information about White Sands, please visit the site linked below.
All images of White Sands National Monument, Stock Files.