White Sands National Monument

June 14, 2006


Provided by: Sandy Simmons
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster; Sandy Simmons

The photo above showing the snow like sands found at White Sands National Monument, in southeastern New Mexico, was taken on April 26, 2006. Sunglasses and sunscreen are a must if you're hiking these brilliant dunes. The sand of this nearly 300 sq. mi. (777 sq. km) dune field is composed of pure gypsum (most sand beaches are quartz based). At center is a squawbush or skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata Nutt). These shrubs bind sand grains around their root mass, and eventually when the sand moves on (drifts away), the sumac remains perched atop a pedestal of its own making. Note that the gypsum sand appears as bright as the cumulus clouds in the background.

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