We are staying at a RV resort on the south side of Las Cruces, New Mexico. A couple of days ago we took a drive to the White Sands National Monument which is about 50 miles northeast from us. The first part of the drive is over a small mountain range right next to Organ Mountain.
We rose over two thousand feet in a few miles and on the other side of the pass there was an equally fast drop of about 3000 feet. After the road straightened out it was as if a civil engineer had taken a ruler and drawn a line on the map and said “put the road here”. The road was perfectly straight for the next 30 miles and if it hadn’t been for cross-winds I wouldn’t have needed to touch the steering wheel the entire time. The road passed through the White Sands Missile Range and we passed several side roads with sentry posts along the way.
At the White Sands park headquarters there was a small exhibit of local flora and fauna, and a 20 minute movie on the history and geology of White Sands. There is a 5-mile long drive out into the dunes that starts next to the park headquarters which we took. The drive was very scenic and took us through a good part of the dunes. White Sands exists because it is in the center of a basin so there were mountain ranges both to the west and the east of the park. Its hard to tell how far away the Sacramento mountains were because we could see the backside of Organ Mountain and it was over 30 miles away.
The dunes at the start of the drive are anchored in place by vegetation but as we got further and further along the road the dunes got larger and the vegetation got sparser. Our New England friends and family will be pardoned for assuming the photos we took show snow because that’s just how white the sands are.
The road was asphalt at first and in places the sand had drifted almost halfway across. A couple miles in there was a handicap accessible boardwalk onto the dunes. The boardwalk had placards explaining the local plants and wildlife along the way and a nice view at the top.
The asphalt ended a couple a bit past the boardwalk but in most places the road was reasonably smooth. They had posted a speed limit of 25 MPH but 15 MPH was more like it. Like snow they had plowed the sand back in places and that was when I realized that the road and what was under the sand was probably the bed of an ancient lake. It is a hard layer that was almost perfectly flat and what made the road the road was because that was where they had plowed the sand.
Out at the end of the road was a large picnic area. The picnic tables and barbecue pits were all protected by a curved metal sheet to keep the sun and wind off the picnic spots. When we first came on them they looked like a small fleet of sailboats.
White Sands National Monument was well worth the drive. They did a good job of accommodating visitors and we give it a B+ for accessibility.