By Angela Peacock
One of the world’s greatest natural wonders can be found in New Mexico at White Sands National Monument.
“White Sands is so unique because there is no other place like it on the planet and it is home to some of the most outstanding scenery you’ll ever see,” said John Mangimeli, chief of interpretation for White Sands National Monument, located in Alamogordo.
At the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert lies the Tularosa Basin. In the heart of this basin lies the white sands of New Mexico. Dunes of gypsum sand have covered 275 square miles of desert. This is the worlds largest gypsum dune field. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of the dune field and the plants and animals that have successfully adapted to this harsh environment.
“The brilliant white dunes are ever changing: growing, cresting, then slumping, but always advancing. Slowly but relentlessly the sand, driven by strong southwest winds, covers everything in its path,” according to the Web site www.nps.gov/whsa.
Within the extremely harsh environment of the dune field, even plants and animals adapted to desert conditions struggle to survive. Only a few species of plants grow rapidly enough to survive burial by moving dunes, but several types of small animals have evolved a white coloration that camouflages them in the gypsum sand.
White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this gypsum dune field, along with the plants and animals that have successfully adapted to this constantly changing environment,” Mangimeli said.
The highest dunes at White Sands reach 50 to 60 feet with approximately 4.5 billion tons of sand located at the historical site. Mangimeli said there is much more to White Sands than just sand.
“People can have any kind of experience they want to from recreational to spiritual and everything in between,” Mangimeli said. “A lot of people are just in awe at the scenery when they visit here they don’t expect to see what they actually do see.”