This almost snow-like-sand is produced by the Tularosa Basin. The basin was formed by the collapse of a dome made up of the gypsum sand. The collapse occurred about ten million years ago and what remains of the sides of the original dome are what we now call the San Andreas and Sacramento Mountain ranges.
Photo: Jennifer Willbur
How is the White Sand Created?
What makes this place so unique is that the common mineral of gypsum (hydrous calcium sulfate) is rarely seen in the form of sand because it is so easily soluble in water. The natural elements of rain and snow carry the gypsum from the mountains down to the Tularosa Basin, but there are no streams to wash the mineral away from the basin into the ocean.
The mineral, therefore, accumulates and crystallizes into sand that gets blown around by the desert winds which over the centuries has formed what we see today at White Sands. One of the basin’s lowest points is Lake Lucero. This lake is primarily a dry bed, but sometimes fills with water which then evaporates and leaves behind deposits of gypsum sand on the surface. At White Sands there are: Dome, Barchan, Transverse and Parabolic dunes. These terms denote the shape and direction of the dunes. The park consists of glistening white dunes that stretch over 275 miles of desert landscape.
Gypsum plant stand Photo: Mila Zinkova
View of White Sands Photo: Chitrapa
Gypsum sand from the White Sands National Monument. Photo: Wilson44691
Bleached earless lizard at White Sands NM. Photo: Kevinp2
White Sands National Monument from space. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory
Moonrise. Photo: Peekaboo Moon