Does the attached picture look like two separate pictures which have been pieced together? Well, it is actually one magnificent panorama that can be seen in the great state of Colorado. It is Great Sand Dunes National Park, and it appears to be a celebration of diversity by Mother Nature. The park, and its accompanying preserve, span more than 80,000 acres. Within that boundary that are mountains, grasslands, wetlands, flowing streams and lakes, but most notably the dunes which are 750 feet in height. Of course, that might not sound like much when you consider that the Sangre de Cristo Mountains soar to over 13,000 feet! However, take a look at the park from the vantage of space using Google Earth. At first glance, it appears other worldly. Zoom out from the original area that is shown in a satellite photo of the dunes, and you can see a delta from which appears to be the source of the material from which the dunes emanated. Actually, a series of creeks that surround the area combine with nearly constant winds to set up a cycle that both feed and maintain the dunes. It is speculated that the dune may have begun to form within the last half million years or so….which is relatively recent in geologic time. They continue to grow because that very wind and water cycle remains in effect. What you may not grasp from a satellite photo is that the dunes stretch over more than 30 square miles of land.
What else might you find inside of this national jewel? There are alpine tundra and lakes to explore. There is a wide variety of wildlife due to the area’s diverse landscape. Lizards and snakes can be found near the dunes, and sheep, bison, mountain lions, marmots and badgers can be found in the mountains. Of course there are numerous types of fish in the lakes and birds soaring over the park. There are trails to hike ,and the Medano Creek, which flows during the spring and summer months, is a great place to build sand castles. Sand Creek flows year round as it creates a wetland environment. The Lower Sand Creek Lake, along with four other alpine lakes, is available for swimming as well, but it might be a bit chilly considering runoff from the snowfields continues to feed it well into July. Although the Zapata Falls on the southeast side of the park is pleasant to listen to, the Great Sand Dunes national park is considered the quietest of all of its sister parks. There is definitely an opportunity to sandboard on the dunes year round! How fun is that?
This national park was established on September 13, 2004. It first was designated as a national monument in 1932. The attached image is, of course, of the Great Sand Dune.
As some of you know, today is my birthday. I thought this morning about the jewels some people covet as a birthday present. However, they dim in comparison with the jewels of our national park system. They also dim in the light of the liberty which we, as American citizens, take almost for granted. I consider every day that I live a life of freedom to be a gift. I am so fortunate to live in America where I can have control over my destiny. I hope to pass that opportunity onto my children. The liberty and rights that are that are a part of our daily lives are What IS Right With America!
Susan Rempel, Ph.D.