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This Captivating Desert Landscape Just Became the Newest U.S. National Park

By Michelle Baran

Dec 27, 2019

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White Sands National Park consists of 275 square miles of rolling desert dunes.

Photo by lphoto/Shutterstock

White Sands National Park consists of 275 square miles of rolling desert dunes.

White Sands in New Mexico, formerly a national monument, has joined the National Park System.

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In the heart of New Mexico, an ocean of white sand dunes has just become the nation’s 62nd national park.

On December 20, White Sands National Monument was redesignated White Sands National Park. Located in the Tularosa Basin of the Chihuahuan Desert, the park’s 275 square miles of sand contain an abundance of a mineral called gypsum. This is what gives the landscape its chalky white hue and earns it the title of the world’s largest gypsum dune field.

President Herbert Hoover established the White Sands National Monument on January 18, 1933. Its redesignation as a national park recognizes the area’s scenic and natural value and sets it aside for public use. According to the National Park Service, national parks are chosen for their inspirational, educational, and recreational values, whereas national monuments are places of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest.

The striking gypsum dunes are home to the world’s largest collection of fossilized footprints dating back to the Ice Age.

In addition to the striking gypsum dunes, the park is home to fossilized footprints that date back to the Ice Age, chronicling more than 10,000 years of human existence.

Beyond its history, White Sands National Park is also known for outdoor adventure. Visitors often sled down the snow-like mounds of sand, and the park is a popular destination for hiking, biking, backcountry camping, and horseback riding. 

White Sands is home to more than 800 species of animals as well as native plant life that includes cacti and desert succulents, grasses, and wildflowers.

The national park is located 225 miles south of Albuquerque. 

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