White Sands was established as a national monument in 1933 is situated in the Tularosa Basin, between Alamogordo (northeast) and Las Cruces (southwest). Here its particles make the crystals shine “white” to the human gaze. It was 1933 when it was recognized as a national monument, White Sands covers 225 square miles (583 square km) and welcomes visitors from around the world to explore its unique beauty. Today, its location between several military bases means the monument is sometimes closed due to missile tests. Visitors are always encouraged to check before making the trek.
It’s amazing to see the “sand” in these miles of shifting dunes is not composed of silica, like most inland sand. Interestingly, the sand at White Sands is almost pure gypsum. Gypsum is different from many other rocks because it is readily soluble. That means it will dissolve in water, just like sugar or salt. When rain falls on the mountains, the layers of gypsum start to dissolve, and the gypsum runs down the mountains as fast as the water can carry it. Another reason White Sands is surreal: 93 African Oryx, a species of antelope from East Africa, were imported from the Kalahari Desert and set free between 1969 and 1977. Today, you’ll find more than 3,000 animals, each weighing up to 450 pounds with horns that average 34 inches, roam the dunes and 300 plants, 250 birds, 7 amphibians, 30 reptiles, 50 mammals, and 1 kind of fish species call White Sands National Monument their home. The glistening white sands of New Mexico are one of the world’s great natural wonders.
The weather in White Sands National Monument is usually quite nice with clear, sunny skies for approximately 330 days out of the year. Summers are hot with daytime temperatures averaging 36ºC (97ºF) in the summer and 16ºC (60ºF) in the winter. Most of the rainfall happens during monsoon season from early-July through mid-October.
Hiking and sledding: From sledding to hiking, there are many things to do in White Sands National Monument. White Sands National Monument is a highlight of any New Mexico road trip! You’ll experience a great time hiking the trails and getting lost in the white dunes. The best White Sands sledding is found in the center of the national park where the largest dunes reside.
Sunset stroll: The Sunset Amble is included with your entrance fee, and is a wonderful way to cap off your day. The hike is timed to coincide with sunset and offer excellent and photogenic views as the sun retreats behind the mountains.
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