A hike at White Sands is a unique experience. This huge sand pile is composed of gypsum, not the more common quartz. Gypsum sand is softgrained and smooth, giving these dunes a different, pleasant feel to bare feet. The fine sand also makes for easy animal tracking.
The gypsum weathers out of the ancient seabed rocks of surrounding mountains. It is dissolved and transported by runoff, accumulating in Lake Lucero in the western part of the monument. The gypsum precipitates out of the evaporating lake water and is deposited on the lake bottom. In this desert environment, the lake is completely dry most of the year. Strong, westerly winds then push the gypsum eastward into large dunes.
Three Rivers, NM - Hiking - Trail Length: 5