… was proclaimed such by President Herbert Hoover 80 years ago today (1932). It became America’s 58th national park on September 24, 2004, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
The tallest in North America, these dunes developed as southwesterly winds blew ancient alluvial sediments from the San Luis Valley toward the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The preserve, containing the entire surface watershed and primary topographic features interacting with the Great Sand Dunes, ranges in elevation from 8,000 to over 13,000 feet and includes life zones from desert to alpine tundra.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve:
- contains the tallest dunes in North America and one of the most fragile and complex dune systems in the world
- protects a globally significant, water- and wind-driven system, which includes creeks that demonstrate surge flow, a rare hydrologic phenomenon
- provides tremendous scenic settings that, for many, provoke strong emotional responses. These settings (including massive dunes surrounded by alpine peaks, a desert valley, creeks flowing on the surface of the sand, pristine mountains, and rural range land) offer spacious relief from urban America, exceptional solitude and quiet, and a remarkably unspoiled day and night sky
- hosts a great diversity of plants and animals, including insect species found nowhere else on earth. The system, which spans high desert to alpine life zones, supports rare biological communities that are mostly intact and functional
- contains some of the oldest (9,000+ years before present) known archeological sites in America. The dunes have been identified as having special importance by people of various cultures, and the area is recognized for the culturally diverse nature of human use
- provides special opportunities for recreation, exploration, and education in the highly resilient dune mass and adjoining creek environments.
National Parks Traveler tells us that Great Sand Dunes is one of the quietest places in the U.S. I can attest it also one of the darkest, with an incredible star-filled sky on clear, moonless nights. NewMexiKen photo, 2010. Click image for larger version.