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Named the biggest gypsum desert, covering 275 square miles — White Sands National Park is one of the world’s natural wonders that can be found in New Mexico, USA. Not only it is unique because of its white sand, but also because of the animal and plant life present in the area.
See the fact file below for more information on the White Sands National Park or alternatively, you can download our 29-page White Sands National Park worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The Park rises from the south of Tularosa Basin, a bulge-shaped part of the Rio Grande rift. As of today, the basin has dried up and has no water discharge.
- Another water resource found near the dunes is Lake Lucero. This is a long-lived lake near the Alkali Flat. These help accumulate white sand that forms the surrounding dunes.
- Delving deeper Into the park, this is located in the north of the Chihuahuan Desert, having temperatures rising to 110°F (43.33°C) during summer and -25°F (-33.67°C) during winter.
- The National Park also serves as a natural laboratory for research into the adaptation and rapid development of plants, animals, and microorganisms, which have all developed the ability to survive in a semiarid climate. The population includes insects, lizards, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and rare plants (e.g. gyp monopod, hairy crinklemat).
- Surprisingly, the park caters to 800 different animals that belong to all groups of the kingdom Animalia.
- On the other hand, the plants thrive even in high salt concentrations and are called gypsophila.
- The white sand deposits found in the park range from about 45, 000 years to only hours old.
- Besides these, most of its features have evolved from 270 million years ago.
- During this time, the location was submerged under the sea and was covered by sandstones, limestones, and most especially, gypsum. For this reason, the park was buried and preserved for such a long time.
- The development of its surrounding wonders (the Rio Grande Rift and the Tularosa Basin) started about 25 million years ago when shifts in the tectonic plates caused the land to shape into basins.
- Following this (2-3 million years ago), the surrounding water resources deposited sand and gravel into the basin. These contain Permian-age gypsum (a white to grey mineral rich in calcium sulfate).
- About 2 million years ago, during the ice age another body of water (Lake Otero) developed in the southwestern part of the basin.
- It was only about 15,000 years ago that the Tularosa basin started to dry out. This resulted in the formation of the Alkali Flat and the Lake Lucero.
- Around this time gypsum crystals start to pile on dunes. These came from sediments from the old lakes and the Alkali Flat.
FEATURES THAT MAKE IT UNIQUE
- Internal drainage is present in the area. With this, the basin is similar to Utah‘s evaporitic Great Salt Lake.
- The area has a plentiful supply of calcium sulfate (gypsum) from Permian rocks located in adjacent mountains, particularly to the north, and comparable strata found beneath the Tularosa Basin.
- The region’s climate resulted in gypsum reprecipitation after the last ice age when Lake Otero dried up.
- Consistent southwesterly winds remove gypsum from exposed lake silt and deposit it on dunes that move to the northeast over time.
- An extremely shallow water table (usually 1-3 feet below the surface in interdune locations) keeps soil moisture high and aids in the stabilization of wind-blown gypsum.
- Dunes are further stabilized by vegetation and soil crusts, particularly along the dune field’s eastern boundary.
WHAT TO TAKE NOTE OF BEFORE YOUR VISIT
- White Sands National Park is located on the northside of US Highway 70, 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo and 52 miles northeast of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
- The park may be closed due to exceptional weather, flooding, or missile launches on the nearby White Sands Missile Range.
- During missile tests, US 70 may also be restricted for an hour or more. Check the park’s website for any scheduled closures.
- The main entrance to the park is a 16-mile circular drive across the dunes.
- Several nature trails begin at parking areas along the drive. Because the park is open during the day, entry and exit timings change throughout the year. In addition, regular moonlight treks are planned, and special escorted visits to Lake Lucero need advance registration.
- For opening hours and to sign up for special tours, visit the park’s website. Because White Sands can be a hostile environment, please adhere to all National Park Service safety guidelines regarding suitable clothing and sunscreen. Take plenty of water and food with you. It is easy to become disoriented in a setting where each dune seems similar to the preceding one, thus a fully charged telephone, GPS device, and compass are required for longer excursions.
- Operations. The White Sands National Park is open all year round except December 25 (Christmas Day).
- The operating hours differ according to the season.
RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES IN THE LOCATION
- Riding a bike through the park provides unobstructed views of the ever-changing dunefield and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of this unique landscape. Not only this, but it also gives you time to exercise and have fun.
- The dunes are inviting you to take a walk. There is no better way to experience the park’s unique landscape than hiking through one of the five established trails. Explore the dunes and enjoy the solitude of the dunefield while taking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
- Anyone can take great pictures in this national wonder. These, on the other hand, necessitate techniques and perspectives learned by professionals. Consider composition and lighting when deciding where to focus.
Going for a picnic
- For generations, picnicking in the park has been one of the visitors’ most popular pastimes. Prepare your lunches and choose your own style: you may bring a blanket and an umbrella or use one of the 62 tables and grills that are available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the park.
White Sands National Park Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about White Sands National Park across 29 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about White Sands National Park which is one of the world’s natural wonders that can be found in New Mexico, USA.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- White Sands National Park Facts
- Fact or Bluff
- Nine Facts to Know
- Travel Back
- Pay a Visit
- Puzzle Mix-up
- Fill in the Words
- Missing Information
- Unscramble Me
- What am I
- White Sands Board Game
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is White Sands National Park located?
The Park rises from the south of Tularosa Basin, a bulge-shaped part of the Rio Grande rift. As of today, the basin has dried up and has no water discharge. Another water resource found near the dunes is Lake Lucero. This is a long-lived lake near the Alkali Flat. These help accumulate white sand that forms the surrounding dunes.
What’s unique about the White Sands National Park?
The white sand deposits found in the park range from about 45, 000 years to only hours old. Besides these, most of its features have evolved from 270 million years ago. During this time, the location was submerged under the sea and was covered by sandstones, limestones, and most especially, gypsum. For this reason, the park was buried and preserved for such a long time.
What activities can you do at the White Sands National Park?
Bicycling, hiking, taking pictures, and going for a picnic are popular activities in White Sands National Park.
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Use With Any Curriculum
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