Before leaving Las Cruces, we managed to find a great place to visit while Anneke continues to recover from her sprained ankle-White sands National Monument. This is one of the unique natural wonders of the world. It is the largest gypsum sand dunes in the world. These dunes were formed from the gypsum washed out of the mountains and forming crystals as the water evaporated out of the large pools the water formed in the desert in the mountain basins. While there are a few other such dunes, this is by far the largest since there is no river to carry the dissolved sands to the ocean.
It is over 275 square miles in size and continues to grow. The dunes also move with the winds across the desert floor at about 30 feet per year. There are unique plants and animals that have made this their home, including plants that have adapted to the moving sands that allow them to grow higher enough to get above the moving dunes which bury as much as 30 feet of the plant below the sands and still survive. When the sands move on, they often retain some of the sand around their base.
We were able to enjoy the dunes in an 8 mile drive thru the dunes. If you are inclined to take a hike there are many miles of trials to enjoy. Areas are set aside for just playing in the sand, as well.
Other than the beauty of the area, one of the things that we found interesting was the extensive and somewhat other worldly picnic area.