Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reviewing 'Alien Landscapes': White Sands, NM

White Sands is a very interesting national monument in the middle of the desert. Between the mountains and a vast scrub land, the dunes of white sand that form the park seem to appear out of nowhere. In truth, the dunes are formed by the transport of gypsum grains from a nearby lake. The lake has a high mineral content, and as water evaporates it leaves behind the gypsum, which is blown to the dune area. The dunes can shift outwards at a rate of 30 ft (~9 m) a year. It is also the world's largest pure gypsum dune field.

As dunes are completely made up of the gypsum, they have beautiful white color.
The dunes on the outer edge of the field boasts a wide range of plant and animal life. As we were there in the winter, we did not see much animal life, but we did find some evidence of life; animal tracks.

The dunes in the inner part of the field are much starker. They have few plants, and less animals. There is virtually no water in the dune field, so all animals depend ultimately on the plants for a source of water. With few to no plants present on the inner dunes, animals cannot live there.

This place is very beautiful, and so very odd looking. I highly recommend a trip there. They say that the best time to go is during the early or late parts of the day. In order to take good photos you need some shadows. Additionally, noon can be very hot. However they do have a nature center in the middle of the park, which may be a very pleasant spot to pass midday in.

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