Nestled in the heart of the Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico lies White Sands National Park. The park is renowned for its otherworldly landscape of glistening white gypsum sand dunes, but did you know it also has a rich and diverse history that extends from ancient times to the present day?! In this blog we’ll explore the origin of the park and a few surprising historical facts.
The story of White Sands begins around 250 million years ago when a vast inland sea covered the region. Over time, the sea evaporated, leaving behind a massive gypsum deposit. The wind and water gradually broke down the gypsum rock into the dazzling white sand that we marvel at today. The unique composition of the sand contributes to the park’s extraordinary beauty.
Long before White Sands became a national park, the area was home to indigenous peoples, including the Mescalero Apache and the Tularosa Basin’s earliest inhabitants. Archaeological evidence suggests that these cultures utilized the region for hunting, gathering, and spiritual ceremonies, leaving behind traces of their existence in the form of artifacts and petroglyphs.
Missile Range and World War II:
The history of White Sands took a dramatic turn during World War II when the U.S. government established the White Sands Proving Ground, now known as the White Sands Missile Range. The gypsum sand’s unique properties made it an ideal testing ground for military weapons and technology. The famous Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945, is also located within the park’s boundaries.
Becoming a National Monument:
In 1933, President Herbert Hoover designated White Sands as a national monument to preserve its unique landscape and protect the fragile ecosystems within. However, it wasn’t until December 2019 that the area received official recognition as a national park, making it the newest addition to the National Park System.
Today, White Sands National Park welcomes visitors from around the world to explore its pristine dunes, hike its trails, and marvel at its breathtaking scenery. The park offers various recreational activities, including sledding down the soft slopes of the dunes and stargazing in one of the darkest skies in the United States.
White Sands National Park stands as a captivating blend of natural wonder and human history. From its geological origins to its role in military testing and its designation as a national park, the sands of White Sands whisper tales of the past.