Student Papers in Geology-Cochise College
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Wind and Deserts
Wind and Deserts-Articles         

Roger Weller, geology instructor

White Sands, New Mexico
by Zachary Aragon
Physical Geology
Spring 2011

The White Sands of New Mexico

          White Sands National Monument is located in the southern part of New Mexico, running along the State Route 70 as well as being a neighbor of the Army facility White Sands Missile Range.  Located in Otero County just 15 miles away from the city of Alamogordo white sands stand at the average southwest desert height of 4235 feet. The White Sands National Park is located within a mountain range called the Tularosa Basin Valley.,%20New%20Mexico.jpg






          By using the Antiquities Act of 1906, President Hoover was able to establish many state parks across the United States. Turns out the White Sand park had become a before its bigger brother to the north; Yellow Stone National Park. On January 18, 1933 the White Sands of New Mexico were officially recognized and awarded to be a state park.  Prior of being a national park the White Sands area was just a simple monument that was dedicated to the white sand dunes that is the main center point of the area.  Also due to some good and bad events the White Sand bounced back and forth in legislation between states. In the end it has maintained its park status all the way back when it was first granted to be a national park.



What does this have anything with Geology??

          One word Gypsum!!!! The famous white sand dunes are made of a rare formation of white gypsum. The rain would normally wash away the high levels of gypsum that make dunes but due to the lack of rain to a high drought level.  During the last ice age glaciers carried and covered the basin with salt water.  Also at different reigns of the basin are dried out lake beds. The giant glaciers did not alone make the dunes; the gypsum had formed crystals that are called selenite crystals that on average reach three feet in length.  After these selenite crystals are formed weathering and erosion will break down these crystals and basically turns into sand.  The plants in the area have adapted to the constant changing of the dunes by quickly growing.



Fun things to do at the park

          What possible things could be done with a bunch of sand and no water? It turns out that there is plenty to do at this park such as hiking, sledding and education facts how. Hiking is featured at this park even though there is a lack of mountains, walking around the dunes for miles has brought hikers from everywhere. Since the sand dunes are massive it height and with sliding down one is quite fun, except when sand gets into an eyeball. Finally the historic visitor center is full facts that are all about the park.