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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

America's White Desert (New Mexico) White Sands National Monument

When you hear of a white desert, usually its referring to the Sahara el Beyda in Egypt. With its massive chalk rock formations throughout an isolated land, it is one of the most astounding natural wonders of Egypt. But there is a white desert in the United States that is just as amazing and is also an astonishing natural wonder.

White Sands National Monument is 275 sq miles of white sand dunes composed of gypsum crystals. This gypsum dune field is the largest of its kind on Earth.

Gypsum, unlike other rocks, is water soluble. When rain falls on the surrounding mountains, the layers of gypsum start to dissolve, and runs down the mountains. With the Tularosa Basin and the dunes being fully enclosed, there is no outlet for the water, so the gypsum stays within White Sands Monument.

Unlike most sand, the gypsum sand does not readily convert the sun's energy into heat and can be walked upon safely with bare feet, even in the hottest months.

 It was completely cloudy with a misty rain when we arrive, but cleared off some while we were there. I looked like a total snow white out for a while.

There are four types of dunes within the park; barchan, parabolic, transverse, and dome dunes. These can be seen along the eight-mile scenic Dunes Drive.

The drive starts at the visitor center and leads deep into the gypsum dune field. The first five miles of are paved and the last three miles are a hard-packed gypsum sand road.

There are several places along the drive to stop and play on the dunes. Sledding is a popular activity in the park. Waxed plastic snow saucers work best and can be purchased at the gift shop.

White Sands is located next to a Missile Range and is closed occasionally due to missile testing. Check here for open status.

Hours of operation vary throughout the year. Check the schedule here.

The three picnic areas, the Yucca, Roadrunner, and Primrose, are named after the most iconic plant and animal species in the monument. These picnic areas are located about six to seven miles from the entrance off Dunes Drive.

White Sands is truly one of America’s most amazing places! It is sure to impress all ages and be an unforgettable experience.

The actual physical address is:
 19955 Highway 70 West
  Alamogordo, NM 88310

Happy Travels! 

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