Skip to main content

White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument is in the U.S. state is in the northern Chihuahua Desert in the New Mexico. It is known for its rare white gypsum sand dunes. The trails include the Dune Life Nature Trail, Interdune Boardwalk and are dotted with exhibits on wildlife. Dunes Drive from the White Sands is a looped road reaching the dune field.

White Sands National Monument contains the largest sand dune field and gypsum in the world covering fine white sand of 275 square miles, formed by the prevailing winds.

White Sands on 18 Jan 1933 became a national monument as per the President Herbert Hoover’s order. Efforts were taken to preserve the brilliant gypsum dunes that had begun in the late 1800s, but Tom Charles, the local booster’s enthusiasm led to the creation of this Park. He said gypsum may be categorized into Commercial and Inspirational, two classes. It is not found anywhere else that the alabaster duns present the splendor and beauty of the Great Whites Sands.

The park’s creation match with the Great Depression, that was fortuitous due to the public works focus on Roosevelt administration. WPA funds were employed to improve the White Sands and park areas benefited by attaining a full development measure within few years of opening. The park attracted in its first year 12,000 people, and today nearly 600,000 people annually visit the park.

The monuments natural feature is the pure gypsum dunes is obvious, but less apparent are its sources, the Alkali Flat and Lake Lucero dunes. These two areas have been created due to the extensive Pleistocene lake gradual drying that was opulent with mineral gypsum. Owing to the weathering and transportation of wind, the dunes have reached the exposed surfaces.

The golden yellow translucent gypsum crystals grow in mud saturated beneath the remains of the lake. As it gets exposed, these crystals are subjected to erosion and weathering. Eventually, it becomes sand grains and gypsum powder that is carried as sandstorms or dust by winds to become the White Sands National Monument white sands.

Thunderstorms are frequent in summers. A high-desert area, the Tularosa Basin, averaging to elevation 4000 feet is subjected to rapidly changing harsh climatic conditions. This is the reason the summers in July and August get hot featuring temperatures to 95°F.

Winters are comparatively mild, but the temperatures during night times mostly go below freezing (0°C.), while the cold spells send the mercury below zero reaching to -17°C. The recorded temperature lowest is -25°F (-32°C). There is infrequent snowfall, but there is the occurrence of heavy snows few times. The precipitation averages per year to nearly 8 inches (20 cm.), though they fall during summer thunderstorms and are accompanied by hail and lightning.

Wind is the climatic dominant during February to May. The southwesterly winds blow across the desert and reach gale force at times. Wind storms can last in the spring for days. During this time, dune movement is at the greatest, the dune animal and communities living conditions become harsh.

Wind is the dominant climatic factor, especially from February through May. The prevailing southwesterly winds blow unimpeded across the desert and at times reach gale force. Wind storms can last for days in the spring. This is the time of the greatest dune movement when living conditions for dune animal and plant communities become extremely harsh.

Flora and fauna
Most White Sands have nocturnal habits developed aiming to escape the desert heat and predators. Adding to this, due to white sands animals have lighter coloration and there are mammals, white reptiles and invertebrates blending with the white background.  There are mammals of 44 species, reptiles of 26 species, amphibians in 6 species and around 100 families’ insects on the monument, featuring normal coloration.

Lizards are observed readily in the inter-dunal areas that vegetation is found specifically for protection and shade. The mammals in the park are nocturnal primarily and not observed easily. The spadefoot toad is the light-colored amphibian and ventures from underground following severe thunderstorms such that water is available for egg-laying and breeding in the rainwater pools, where tadpoles develop fast into adults and stay burrowed into the wet sand, awaiting next season storms.

National Park Preparation
The national park creating in the white sands relates back to 1898. An El Paso group proposed the National Park creation and their main idea was preserving a game hunting and this conflicted with the preservation idea and the plan failed.

In 1921-22, the U.S. secretary of the interior, Albert Bacon Fall also owned in Three Rivers a large ranch close to the White Sands. He promoted the National Park idea such that it is usable throughout the year. This also had to face a lot of difficulties and failed to succeed.

Later an Alamogordo civic booster and insurance agents, Tom Charles, was also influenced by the ideas of fall. However, Charles mobilized more support, emphasizing economic benefits to get the park created.

President Herbert Hoover, on January 18, 1933, created White Sands National Monument, under the 1906 Antiquities Act authority. The grand opening was in 1934 on 29 April.

The White Sands National Monument is the greatest wonders in the world attracting tourists from the globe. The visitor center is an adobe building built in the 1930s and it also features a museum with artifacts, besides there are documentary films revealing history. Throughout the year, there are sunset tours and moonlight hikes arranged from the visitor center to get a new perspective and also to enjoy being in the closest proximity to the Las Cruces hotels.

Located 15 miles to the Alamogordo west in the south of the state, this site is the best place to visit in New Mexico. Here are valid reasons:

  • This Park features gypsum crystals entirely that forms dunes stretching to cover nearly 275 square miles.
  • In 1898, the idea came upon to create a National Park.
  • This Park is on the Historic Places Register and can be found in the travel guide of New Mexico.
  • The White Sands National Monument is enveloped by military installations completely and is closed periodically for few hours only when testing is carried out.
  • The Park is located in the Tularosa Basin and is enclosed fully by the dunes, there is no water outlet of any type and so the gypsum does not get dissolved in water.
  • There are marked four trails allowing visitors to explore on foot the tunes. There are guided tours available to lead an expedition.
  • The first atomic bomb detonation site is on the National Park northern boundary.
  • Visitors can go throughout the year sledding at the Park. Visitors can purchase the sleds available at the visitor center and can have fun in the sun out.
  • Gypsum does not absorb the sun heat, so throughout the year even on the hottest day, the dunes are comfortable and cool to walk on.
  • Gypsum dunes are a clear substance, appearing as snow as they contain gypsum grains banging constantly with each other. They look white with the sun rays reflecting the scratches that appear due to banging.

People wishing to know more from the park can consider camping on the campsite located nearly a third of a mile. This site does not feature running water or bathrooms but offers a kind tranquil view. Do carry sunglasses and sunscreen, in association with your adventure sense as you visit.

Reaching White Sands National Monument is possible with the car as there is no public transportation service. This is open daily except for the Christmas Day. Dune drives are also available. There is a Border Patrol checkpoint before the monument entry about a mile, so ensure you have your ID ready, to avoid being turned away.