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Great Sand Dunes National Park

August 13, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Our next stop were the sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park. We saw dunes last year in Death Valley, but we didn’t see dunes quite like these. The dunes here are the tallest in North America, reaching heights of over 750 feet. The dunefield is a massive 30 square miles. That’s a lot of sand.


The length of the dunefield shown here stretches approximately 6 milesThe length of the dunefield shown here stretches approximately 6 miles


Wind and water move sand, continually forming the dunes. Most of the sand comes from the San Juan Mountains, over 65 miles to the west and some comes from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains adjacent to the dunefield to the east. Prevailing southwesterly winds bounce sand grains to pile up beneath the Sangre de Cristos. Northeasterly storm winds blast through mountain passes, piling the dunes back on themselves. The dunefield is partially surrounded by two creeks—Sand Creek and Medano Creek—that also contribute to the recyling of the sand.


Medano Creek, Dune Field, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.Medano Creek, Dune Field, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.


The afternoon we arrived at the park was hot, and the parking lots were full. We found a space at an overflow lot and hiked to the creek. Medano Creek was the most popular place in the park that day, providing a place to cool off under the hot sun. We took off our shoes and walked through the creek toward the dunefield. A few brave souls could be seen climbing toward High Dune in the heat of the day, looking like specs in the distance. We decided to stay near the cool creek.


Medano Creek and DunesMedano Creek and Dunes Trapped CloudsTrapped Clouds Dissipating Clouds Over DunesDissipating Clouds Over Dunes Size of dunes compared to peopleSize of dunes compared to people Vegetation on dunesVegetation on dunes Shifting SandsShifting Sands

The following morning we were greeted by a thick deck of clouds casting shadows over the dunes and ensconcing the mountains, and a forecast showing rain in the area. The parking lot was nearly empty of cars. In their place were swarming mosquitos, ready to pick up and take away anyone brave (or foolish) enough to get out of his vehicle. We decided to begin the journey to our next location.


Clouds, mountains, dunes, and creekClouds, mountains, dunes, and creek



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