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. [Revised November 2017]

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