White Sands – Surface Surveys
White Sands National Park – New Mexico, USA
Protected as a US National Monument in 1933 and further as a US National Park in 2019.
The largest gypsum dune field in the world, White Sands National Park covers an area of 275 square miles and is comprised entirely of water soluble gypsum crystals. Gypsum does not absorb the sun’s heat. Even on the hottest days, the sands remain cool.
White Sands gypsum was deposited 250 million years ago and uplifted 70 million years ago into a dome during a mountain-building period that also saw the rise of the Rocky Mountains. The dome collapsed 10 million years ago creating today’s Tularosa Basin and the white sand dune fields.
On July 16, 1945 the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated at the Trinity Site in the White Sands Missile Range. Today the bombing range is active and closed to the public 363 days a year. White Sands National Park’s airspace is restricted from ground to space as it is surrounded by military installations, with the White Sands Missile Range to the north and Holloman Air Force Base to the east.
White Sands is one of six individual studies in a series of protected desert physiographies titled Surface Surveys. Each survey embodies the planet’s natural, essential expression, and underscores the ethereal nature of wild lands in our current, anthropocentric age.