Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches

One Shell of a Find!

  • Like us on Facebook!

  • Come Join Us! Treasure Hunters

  • Copyright Notice

    The contents of this site are copyright Beach Treasures And Treasure and may not be copied or used without written permission from the Beach Treasures And Treasure Beaches staff. The posts may be quoted in part, so long as credit is given where it is due and so long as you link the quote back to this page. Thank you kindly for your cooperation and for your interest in our passion for beaches.
    ©2011-2020 Beach Treasures And Treasure
    All Rights Reserved.

  • Disclaimer

    Links to third-party websites are provided as a convenience to users; Beach Treasures And Treasure does not control or endorse their content.

A Sea of Windswept Sand

Posted by Jody on May 14, 2014

The Land of Enchantment has some absolutely wonderful beaches. But where do New Mexicans go when it’s still a little too chilly to head to our state’s beautiful shorelines? We might just head to the biggest gypsum sandbox on earth! That’s exactly what Greg and I did with our grandchildren when they came for an extended visit recently.

White Sands National Monument is the located on the world’s largest gypsum dune field. Nestled in south central New Mexico, at the northernmost edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, White Sands is the perfect place to kick off your shoes and explore a small slice of the 275 square miles of cool, powder fine, glistening white sand dunes. Barefoot is definitely best! Walking in the silky sand, sans sneakers, is the ultimate in luxury for winter-weary tootsies!

On the spring day we arrived, the air temperature was in the mid-80’s, and it was windy, which is typical for the Tularosa Basin. The sand was blowing, and our views of nearby mountains were slightly obscured by the dust in the air. Yet it was the perfect day for sifting, rolling, sledding, and just plain trekking up and over the seemingly endless, wavelike dunes.

Click on any photo to enlarge and scroll through:

There is water here, hidden below the uppermost layer of sand. Indeed, throughout the extensive dune field, highly mineralized water is just a few feet from the surface. The depth of the ground water varies from about five feet below the surface on the east side of the dune field, decreasing to one to three feet below the surface nearer the western end.

In the evening we joined in on the ever-popular, no reservations necessary, ranger-led Sunset Stroll:

There was a beach here once upon a time:

“The gypsum that makes up White Sands is ultimately derived from marine rocks. Shallow seas covered much of New Mexico throughout the Paleozoic Era (570-245) million years ago). Marine deposits as old as 500 million years are present in the San Andres Mountains, but by far the most abundant sedimentary rocks in southern New Mexico are Permian in age (290-245 Ma). In the Permian Period, North America was part of a great megacontinent called Pangaea, and present day New Mexico was submerged in a tropical sea just south of the equator. The limestone mountains at Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks represent the remains of a large barrier reef that was part of this Permian sea. In the middle of the Permian Period there was a major fall in sea level, causing vast stretches of water across southern New Mexico to nearly dry up. It was during this drying-up phase that large quantities of gypsum rock were deposited.”

Source: Geology Fieldnotes,

All resources within White Sands National Monument are federally protected.  Collecting sand, natural objects, and historic items is strictly prohibited. We took home some wonderful memories and these photographs. The saying goes: “Leave only footprints,” but even our footprints were not left behind in the windswept white sands of south central New Mexico.

Have a great day at the beach (or former beach)!


Helpful links: White Sands National Monument home page,  Plan Your Visit, and park brochures galore

Alamogordo Visitor’s Guide

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve 

6 Responses to “A Sea of Windswept Sand”

  1. kiwiskan said

    looks amazing…

  2. Ruth said


  3. ehkstream said

    Thanks for this wonderful post! I was able to visit there a few times while living in New Mexico.
    There are a couple of hike in campsites, it is well worth the planning ahead and short hike to experience a full moon out in the Sands. Words cannot describe the intensity of silver light and sand.

    • Jody said

      How wonderful! We’ll be going back again, and we’ll definitely plan for that full moon hike. Many thanks for the great tips!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: