Great Sand Dunes National Park   5 comments

Great Sand Dunes NP 00Where Is It: The Park is 170 miles south and west of Colorado Springs.

The Birth: from Wikipedia:

The dunes and surrounding area were designated a National Monument in 1932. On November 22, 2000, United States President Bill Clinton signed the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act of 2000, aiming at ultimate national park status. With the help of the Nature Conservancy, the federal government purchased 97,000 acres of the Baca Ranch, which in effect tripled the size of the park. The purchase includes those sections of the ranch which previously bordered the park on the north and west sides and also included 14,165 feet (4,317 m) Kit Carson Mountain and 14,080 feet (4,292 m) subpeak Challenger Point, and the water drainages to the south. The land purchased was split into three sections. Part of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains would be transferred to the Rio Grande National Forest, another section to the west would be set aside as a wildlife area and would host a wild bison herd and the last section to the east would be transferred from the Rio Grande National Forest and would be open to some hunting.

It Happened Here: from Wikipedia:

The park contains the tallest sand dunes in North Americ, rising about 750 feet (230 m) from the floor of the San Luis Valley on the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, covering about 19,000 acres (7,700 ha). Researchers say that the dunes started forming less than 440,000 years ago.

The dunes were formed from sand and soil deposits of the Rio Grande and its tributaries, flowing through the San Luis Valley. Over the ages, westerly winds picked up sand particles from the river flood plain. As the wind lost power before crossing the Sangre de Cristo Range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley. This process continues, and the dunes are slowly growing. The wind changes the shape of the dunes daily.

There are several streams flowing on the perimeter of the dunes. The streams erode the edge of the dune field, and sand is carried downstream. The water disappears into the ground, depositing sand on the surface. Winds pick up the deposits of sand, and blow them up onto the dune field once again.

Digging a couple inches into the dunes even at their peaks reveals wet sand. Part of the motivation of turning the Monument into a National Park was the extra protection of the water, which Colorado’s cities and agriculture covet.

Size: 84,997 acres

# Visitors: 242,841 in 2013. December – February are months with very little visitation; peak attendance is in July.

Animals: From the Park’s website:

Endemic species are those that exist at only one location or area on Earth. They tend to be more numerous in habitats that are distinctly different from the surrounding areas. The Great Sand Dunes harbor at least seven endemic species of insects. Many of the insects here are ‘sand obligates’, meaning that they are adapted uniquely for sandy habitats such as the dunefield. Currently, just over 1,000 different kinds of arthropods (insects and spiders) are known to live at the Great Sand Dunes. However, this may represent only about 25% of the total number of arthropods that may exist here.

Choices: Go sledding! The Park offers tips on what equipment works best, and when the best times are to sled the dunes.

Fees: $3/adult, ages 16 and up. The pass is good for 1 week.

Staying There: Pinyon Flats Campground has 44 spaces open to the public and available on a first come, first served basis. There are also group camping spaces that can be reserved in advance. Backcountry camping in designated areas is also available.

Contact Info:

11999 Highway 150
Mosca, CO 81146



National Park Service: Great Sand Dunes National Park Great Sand Dunes National Park Hiking

Backpacker: North America’s Highest Sandbox….


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