White Sands National Park Facts

White Sands National Park is located in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico, USA. It features a 275-square-mile field of white sand shaped by gusts of wind. Visitors can explore sand dunes and caves, climb mountains, and marvel at desert plants and animals.

The Park also offers activities such as guided walks, night sky programs, and outdoor movies to help visitors connect with nature.

White Sands National Park Facts for kids

  • White Sands is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.
  • It is located in New Mexico, USA.
  • The dunes can reach up to 60 feet tall.
  • White Sands is home to many unique plants and animals.
  • The Park offers activities like sand sledding and hiking.
  • It was designated a national park in 2020.

What are the Key Facts & Information?

The White Sands National Park is located in the south of Tularosa Basin, part of the Rio Grande rift. As well as Lake Lucero to the north of the Chihuahuan Desert.

This area experiences extreme temperatures ranging from 110°F (43.33°C) during summer and -25°F (-33.67°C) during winter.

The Park provides an ideal environment for plants and animals to thrive in such conditions and currently has 800 different animals belonging to all groups of Animalia.

Plants here can even survive in high salt concentrations, known as gypsophila, while there are rare species, including gyp monopod and hairy crinklemat.

This natural laboratory serves as a research center into adaptation and rapid development, where scientists observe how these organisms have developed ways to survive semi-arid climates.

What is the History of White Sands National Park?

White Sands National Park has fascinating geological origins. Depending on the age of the deposit, the white sand could be as old as 45,000 years.

Most of its features had evolved from 270 million years ago when the land was submerged under the sea and covered by a myriad of sandstones, limestones, and especially gypsum.

During this period, it was perfectly preserved because of being buried beneath the sedimentary deposits. Around 25 million years ago, shifts in tectonic plates created basins that formed the Rio Grande Rift and Tularosa Basin, followed by a period of deposition of sand and gravel 2-3 million years ago.

Another body – Lake Otero, developed 2 million years ago due to the ice ages.

15,000 years ago marked another significant moment in its history, with Tularosa drying out and eventually sparking the formation of Alkali Flat, Lake Lucero, and impressive dunes composed of sediment deposited from former lakes with underlying gypsum crystals.

What Makes The Tularosa Basin Unique?

The Tularosa Basin features an internal drainage system and is home to the evaporitic Great Salt Lake, which is found in Utah.

Adjacent mountains to the north have an abundance of calcium sulfate (gypsum) stemming from Permian rocks, which are similar to the strata under the area.

Through the action of southwesterly winds, gypsum is reprecipitated after the last ice age when Lake Otero dried up – this results in gypsum being blown away from exposed lake silt and deposited onto dunes which move northeast over time.

Additionally, an incredibly shallow water table (roughly 1-3 feet below surface level in interdune sections) helps to boost soil moisture levels as well as aiding in gypsum stabilization.

Plants and soil crusts help keep the dunes steady on the east side of the region.

This unique combination of processes makes the Tularosa Basin one-of-a-kind.

Important Details to Know Before Your Trip

Exploring White Sands National Park is a unique experience. However, before heading out, there’s some important information you need to keep in mind.

First and foremost, check the Park’s website for any scheduled closures, as US Highway 70 may be restricted during missile launches on the nearby White Sands Missile Range.

The main entrance to the Park is a 16-mile circular drive over dunes, while several nature trails begin at parking areas along this route.

Opening hours can be found on the Park’s website, and all moonlight treks, as well as special escorted visits to Lake Lucero, need advance registration.

When going to The White Sands National Park, one must follow specific safety guidelines regarding clothing and protection from the rays of the sun. Bring your GPS device and compass — getting lost in such an environment is surprisingly easy!

Make sure you bring plenty of water and food with you as it could be difficult to obtain more inside the Park due to its remote location.

Exploring

If you want to explore this wonderland, what better way than going on a bike ride? Cycling is sure to provide unobstructed views of ever-changing dune fields, as well as be a fun way to get some exercise.

Taking in the breathtaking views of the Park is also made possible by hiking through one of the five established trails.

Photography

Taking photos of this natural beauty requires certain techniques and perspectives that can only be learned by professionals. Consider composition and lighting when focusing your lens for an opportunity to capture great shots.

Relaxing

This National Park is famous for its picnics, which have been popular for generations. Prepare your picnic lunch, and whether it’s having a blanket with an umbrella or grilling from one of the 62 tables, you can relax and have fun doing it!

National Park Service

The White Sands National Park is managed and maintained by the National Park Service, ensuring that visitors have access to a unique recreational experience. This Park offers breathtaking landscapes and extraordinary activities and protects over 275 miles of dunes composed of gypsum sand.

For those looking to explore this destination, they will also enjoy exploring trails, camping, stargazing, and even guided programs from knowledgeable rangers.

The Trails

Hiking the marked trails at White Sands National Park is a great way to explore the natural beauty of this area. Fitness enthusiasts, nature lovers, and outdoor adventurers all appreciate these trails for their varied terrain and stunning scenery.

Signs throughout the Park indicate which areas are part of the marked trails, making it easy for visitors to find their way around.

Get to know the colors and symbols of the trails before setting out on your hike – this will be key if you get lost! The colors are green, blue, orange, and red. The symbols are hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds.

Make sure to recognize each of these, so you stay on track on your journey! But the Interdune Boardwalk is the exception – there are no colored posts or symbols for that particular trail. It’s still important to pay attention as you walk in order to stay safe!