Great Sand Dunes Resumes Full Winter Operations; Expresses Appreciation for Community Support

Mosca, CO – With the enactment of the continuing resolution, staff at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve resumed regular winter operations on Saturday, January 26, 2019. Great Sand Dunes’ employees are happy to be back at work, serving the American people and welcoming visitors to their national park. Great Sand Dunes would like to thank the San Luis Valley community for their support, encouragement, and advocacy during this challenging period. “While we are still assessing the impacts of the shutdown, we are happy to announce that problems with trash, sanitation, or other issues were minimal at Great Sand Dunes in large part because our visitors were conscientious and helped care for the park while they were here,” states Superintendent Pam Rice. “We thank the community for your offers to volunteer during the lapse in appropriations and for supporting park staff in countless ways that helped us make ends meet and endure this trying time.”

Great Sand Dunes encourages visitors to stop by the visitor center between 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week to watch the park film, view exhibits, talk with a helpful ranger, and browse the great selection of items in the Western National Parks Association (WNPA) store. During the winter, the Medano Pass Primitive Road continues to be closed beginning at Castle Creek picnic area until snow melts and the road is passable again. Pinon Flats Campground remains closed through April 2, 2019. The park is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Please visit the park’s website at for a list of upcoming events, road conditions, and park alerts.

Paula Jo Miller Abstract Art Workshop Participants pose with Paintings
Paula Jo Miller led an abstract art workshop for 10 participants in October 2018.

Applications Being Accepted for an Artist to Lead a Workshop in October 2019

Great Sand Dunes is offering the opportunity for an artist, musician, or writer to conduct a free workshop or program in their medium on October 5 or 12, 2019. Learn more on our Artist Opportunities page.
White Breasted Nuthatch with Rose Hip Berry on Tree Trunk
A white-breasted nuthatch carries a rose hip berry down a branch. These and other birds will be counted during the annual Christmas Bird Count.

NPS/Patrick Myers

Annual Christmas Bird Count at Great Sand Dunes on December 29th

Great Sand Dunes is looking for birders of all skill levels to volunteer in Audubon's longest-running wintertime tradition, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This year’s event will be held at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve on Saturday, December 29th.

Great Sand Dunes is one of many locations nationwide participating in this survey. The park is also encouraging those within the count circle who have bird feeders to join in the fun.
Volunteers should meet at 8:30 am at the Great Sand Dunes visitor center conference room (about ½ mile past the entrance station) for event instructions, and hot drinks. Volunteers will receive free entrance to the Park and Preserve for assisting in the bird count. Interested individuals are encouraged to bring binoculars, cameras, snacks, water, sturdy winter footwear, and bird books, if possible.

To register for the bird count at Great Sand Dunes, visit, and contact Dewane Mosher at 719-378-6363 or Dewane will provide a map of the count circle and a winter bird checklist upon registration.

The longest running citizen science survey in the world, Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count takes place nationwide in late December each year. The Christmas Bird Count began over a century ago when 27 conservationists in 25 localities changed the course of ornithological history. On Christmas Day in 1900, the small group posed an alternative to the “side hunt,” a Christmas day activity in which teams competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small mammals. Instead, it was proposed that they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world's most significant citizen-based conservation effort – and a more than century-old institution. The CBC is vital in monitoring the status of resident and migratory birds across the Western Hemisphere, and the data, which are 100% volunteer generated, have become a crucial part of the U.S. Government’s natural history monitoring database.

Please go to the Audubon website for additional information, news, and history on the Christmas Bird Count:

Picnic Area with Dunes and Mountain in Background
Entrance fees help to build and maintain facilities, roads, and trails to enhance visitor experience at Great Sand Dunes.

Great Sand Dunes Changes Entrance Fees to Address Infrastructure Needs & Improve Visitor Experience

This past spring, the National Park Service (NPS) announced service-wide fee increases to provide additional funding for infrastructure and maintenance needs to enhance the visitor experience. As a result, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will modify its entrance fees. Effective January 1, 2019, the entrance fees to the park will be $25 per vehicle or $20 per motorcycle. An annual park pass will cost $45.

Revenue from entrance fees remains in the National Park Service and helps ensure a quality experience for all who visit. At Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, at least 80 percent of entrance fees stay in the park for spending towards enhancing the visitor experience. We share the other 20 percent of entry fee income with other national parks for their projects.

In response to public comments on a fee proposal released in October 2017, there will be a modest increase for all entrance fee-charging parks, rather than the higher peak-season fees initially proposed for only 17 highly-visited national parks.

National parks have experienced record breaking visitation, with more than 1.5 billion visitors in the last five years. Throughout the country, the combination of an aging infrastructure and increased visitation has put a strain on park roads, bridges, campgrounds, waterlines, bathrooms, and other visitor services and led to a $11.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog nationwide.

“Entrance fees collected at Great Sand Dunes support infrastructure projects that enhance the visitor’s experience,” stated Superintendent Pam Rice. “In recent years, the park has been able to use fee revenue to maintain, repair and improve our facilities, enhance essential visitor services such as events and programs, restore critical habitat for the wildlife that visitors come to see and enjoy, and to support our law enforcement rangers in their public safety duties.”

The additional revenue from entrance fees at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve will support the renovation of the visitor center interior exhibits, replacement of water distribution lines in the Pinon Flats Campground and the Mosca Creek Picnic Area, restoration of Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout habitat along Sand Creek, replacement of exterior doors on comfort stations and visitor center, and rehabilitation of the entrance station.

Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199.9 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has collected entrance fees since 1997. The current rate of $20 per vehicle or $15 per motorcycle has been in effect since January 1, 2018. The park is one of 117 National Park Service sites that charges an entrance fee. The other 300 national parks will remain free to enter.

The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.

The National Park Service has a standardized entrance fee structure, composed of four groups based on park size and type. Entrance fees at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve are in-line with this fee structure. Other parks not yet aligned with their category will raise their fees incrementally and fully incorporate the new entrance fee schedule by January 1, 2020.

The complete fee schedule will change according to the following:
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Park Specific Annual Pass
Current $20 $10 $15 $40
Jan 1, 2019 $25 $15 $20 $45

Logo for Commercial Use Authorization
For Immediate Release – 11/5/2018

Great Sand Dunes is Offering Business Opportunities for the Sale of Firewood and other Services within the Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve has announced business opportunities for Firewood Sales and Incidental Visitor Services within the Park. Incidental Visitor Services include the sale of sunscreen, insect repellent, limited camping supplies and vended beverages.

This operation is seasonal in nature with the season beginning mid-May and ending mid-October. The services are to be provided for a minimum of three hours per day, five evenings a week. The hours of operation may be extended, but the schedule of operation must be consistent with the hours that the operator is required to display to the public. The schedule must include Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday evenings. The stocking and sale of beverages in the vending machines located in designated areas on a consistent basis is desired year round.

A Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) permit is required to provide these services at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The fee for a CUA permit is $200. A small building located near the campground may be assigned to the CUA permit holder. The CUA permit holder will be charged a building use fee of $100 and must provide the Park with proof of commercial general and automobile liability insurance.

For the sale of vended beverages, the annual gross receipts over the past three years averaged more than $9,000. For the sale of firewood and incidental visitor items, the annual gross receipts over the past three years averaged more than $40,000. Based on attention to operational management, the potential may exist for an increase of future revenue.

The National Park Service intends to issue up to one CUA permit for vended beverage service and up to one CUA permit for the sale of firewood and limited camping supplies. The completed applications must be returned to the Park no later than 4 p.m. on January 1, 2019. For more information including proposal package requirements, contact Dale Culver at 719-378-6321 or via e-mail at e-mail us. Mail the application to: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, 11500 Highway 150, Mosca, CO 81146-9798.

Additional CUA information including approved business opportunities within Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve can be found on the Park’s website:

About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 409 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.
Learn more at
Firefighter burning piles of debris in forest
Fire personnel will burn piles of debris sometime this winter to reduce hazardous fuels.


November 2, 2018
Contact: Chief Ranger, Dale Culver at (719) 378-6321

Prescribed Burning Planned at Great Sand Dunes National Park
Hazard fuel reduction will help reduce wildfire risk

Mosca, CO — The National Park Service plans to burn several piles of woody debris at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve this winter. The piles will only be burned if and when the ground and adjacent fuels are sufficiently wet from rain or snow, and these wet conditions are present until the burning is completed.

The piles consist of dead woody material from previous hazard fuels reduction projects. These projects reduce fuels around park infrastructure and park boundaries directly adjacent to the private land since this fuel load represents a wildland fire hazard within these areas. The project will reduce the threat of fire to private homes and help protect the plants, wildlife, and important resources in the park.

The piles will be ignited by firefighters and monitored until they are completely out. Local residents and park visitors may see open flames and/or smell smoke in the vicinity of the park during the burn. The project is anticipated to be completed over the course of five days.

Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information see

For more information on the National Park Service Wildland Fire Management Program, visit To learn how you can reduce wildfire risk on your own property, please visit For information about the national park visit our website,, or follow us on Facebook ( Sand Dunes NPP).

For more information regarding the prescribed burn, contact Chief Ranger, Dale Culver at 719-378-6321.

Superintendent Pam Rice with Dunes and Mountains in Background

New Superintendent Arrives at Great Sand Dunes

Pamela Rice, a veteran National Park Service (NPS) manager, has been named superintendent of Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve by Sue Masica, director of the NPS Intermountain Region. Rice, formerly an assistant superintendent at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona and Utah, has already begun her new duties at Great Sand Dunes.

“Pam’s collaborative leadership style, strong communication skills and experience working with park partners, tribes and elected officials make her a great addition to our Great Sand Dunes team,” Masica said.

Rice was assistant superintendent for external affairs at Glen Canyon and Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Her work there included forging a partnership with Page, AZ to manage the heavily visited Horseshoe Bend area and an agreement with air tour operators to manage flights near Rainbow Bridge and other park sites sacred to American Indian tribes.

In 2017, Rice served four months as acting superintendent of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. She also was acting superintendent of Kenai Fjords National Park for four months in 2013.

"I am honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to work at Great Sand Dunes," she said. The park offers such a diversity of recreational opportunities and resources. I look forward to exploring Great Sand Dunes, and to working closely with the local communities, partners, staff, and volunteers in the stewardship of this amazing park."

Rice joined the NPS in 2007 as an interpretive ranger in Alaska, where she had worked for several years for the Bureau of Land Management. She was chief of Interpretation for Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve from 2009 to 2015. She then worked two years in legislative affairs in Washington, DC as an NPS Bevinetto Congressional Fellow.

Rice has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University and two master’s degrees – in interpretation and environmental education from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and in cross-cultural studies and leadership from Concordia University in St. Paul, MN.

Kathy and Willa celebrate Every Kid in a Park
Great Sand Dunes Park Ranger, Kathy Faz, presents San Luis Valley 4th grader, Willa Seesz-Sanchez with her Every Kid in a Park free access pass.

Great Sand Dunes Welcomes 4th Grade Students through "Every Kid in a Park"

National Program Encourages Families and Classes to Visit National Parks

Great Sand Dunes invites all 4th grade students to visit the park for free as part of the "Every Kid in a Park" program. Fourth grade students can visit to complete an activity and obtain a voucher. Bring your voucher to a National Park Service site and exchange it for a free annual entry pass to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national park units, wildlife refuge areas, and US national forests! View full press release (pdf) >

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Last updated: January 30, 2019

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Mailing Address:

Visitor Center
11999 State Highway 150

Mosca, CO 81146


(719) 378-6395

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