White Sands NP, New Mexico, USA by Michael Thomas

Picture Story

White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico is the newest national park in the US, receiving that status in 2019. Until then it had been a national monument from its inception in 1933. Its white gypsum sand dunes are the largest in the world. While the dunes here rise only about 60 feet, they offer a wide range of compositional possibilities and, of course, are ever changing. Like plants in other desert ecosystems, those at White Sands are adapted to dry, windy and hot conditions. One is the soap tree yucca. Native Americans used all of its components for food, textiles and soap.

While exploring the dunes, I found this solitary yucca in an undisturbed field of ripples leading off to a clear blue sky. Ordinarily I’m not a big fan of clear blue skies, but in this case I found the blue a nice complement to the white sand and the emptiness of the sky a perfect contrast to the sharpness of the yucca and the ripples.

I visited in May, and while people come year round, I suspect the cooler months are more hospitable with fewer visitors. There are no camping grounds that accommodate cars and RVs. So unless you are prepared to hike to one of the primitive backcountry camping sites, the closest town is Alamogordo, 30 miles away. Before visiting check to make sure the park is not closed because of tests at the adjacent White Sands Missile Range.

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