• The dunes in soft light

    White Sands

    National Monument New Mexico

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • Closures and Missile Tests

    Upcoming Missile Tests: From time to time the missile range that surrounds us performs missile testing that may require the closure of the park or Highway 70. Please follow the link below for up to date information on closures More »

  • 2014 WHITE SANDS BALLOON INVITATIONAL

    The White Sands Balloon Committee and the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce will be hosting both days of the Balloon Festival on Sept 20-21 at the Alamogordo Balloon Fiesta Park. For more information call 800-826-0294 or (575) 437-6120.

  • Summer Monument Hours

    The monument currently opens at 7 a.m. and closes roughly 1 hour after sunset. More »

  • Road Safety Corridor

    The first four miles of Dunes Drive is a road safety corridor. Slowing or stopping in the corridor is prohibited. Dune Life Nature and Playa trails are also temporarily closed. The staff of White Sands National Monument apologizes for the inconvenience.

Nature & Science

Interdunal vegetation

Gypsum dunes

The largest gypsum dune field in the world is located at White Sands National Monument in south-central New Mexico. This region of glistening white dunes is in the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert within an "internally drained valley" called the Tularosa Basin. The monument ranges in elevation from 3890' to 4116' above sea level. There are approximately 275 total square miles of dune fields here, with 115 square miles (about 40%) located within White Sands National Monument. The remainder is on military land that is not open to the public. This dune field is very dynamic, with the most active dunes moving to the northeast at a rate of up to 30 feet per year, while the more stable areas of sand move very little. The pure gypsum (hydrous calcium sulfate) that forms these unusual dunes originates in the western portion of the monument from an ephemeral lake or playa with a very high mineral content. As the water evaporates (theoretically as much as 80" per year!), the minerals are left behind to form gypsum deposits that eventually are wind-transported to form these white sand dunes. Many species of plants and animals have developed very specialized means of surviving in this area of cold winters, hot summers, with very little surface water and highly mineralized ground water.
 

Download a copy of the White Sands Science Symposium poster.

 
 

Did You Know?

Photo of yucca growing on a dune

Some species of plants can survive burial by a moving dune by a process called "stem elongation." As the sand rises, the plants quickly grow upward to keep their leaves above the rising sand.