White Sands National Monument

In south central New Mexico, rising out of the Tularosa Basin, is the White Sands National Monument, one of the worlds greatest natural wonders. The giant wave-like dunes covers two hundred and seventy-five square miles of the desert.  The dunes consist of a rare form of sand know as gypsum that has been dissolved by rain and snow in the mountains and carried to the Tularosa Basin.  There strong winds pick up the gypsum particles and carry them downwind and the grains accumulate as dunes.  Only the top few inches of the gypsum dunes are loose sand.  Rain falling on the dunes dissolves some of the gypsum and “cements” the sand grains together creating a form of plaster of paris which makes the sand dunes easy to walk on. White Sands is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.  The dunes are continuously changing due to the strong wind that enables them to advance and cover everything in their path. Plants and animals have adapted to the harsh desert environment for survival. Some animals such as the pocket mouse, two species of lizards and several insects have taken on white colorations to camouflage them in the white sand.  Some plants like the soaptree yucca have adapted to the shifting sands by elongating their stem to keep their leaves above the sand and growing upward one foot a year.  Other plants anchor parts of a dune with their roots and keep growing on a sand pedestal after the dune moves on.  The White Sand Dunes move approximately thirty feet per year from west to east.  In January of 1933 President Herbert Hoover established the White Sands National Monument and in 2008 White Sands was placed on the list of World Heritage Sites.  This is an amazing desert area—you feel as if you are surrounded by mounds of snow!  



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