Sandhills Park Not in Danger of Becoming Dust in the Wind Yet

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The secret sands of West Texas…the Monahans Sandhills State Park. The dunes attract almost 50,000 visitors each year to make the pilgrimage to the Basin to witness their natural beauty.  Next year, the park celebrates 60 years. According to the Park’s Superintendent visitors always want to know if the dunes are in danger of blowing away?  We decided to find out.

40,000 years ago after the last Ice Age, a dune field stretching 200 miles from New Mexico to Crane County was born. 1/3 of that turned into the Monahans Sandhills State Park in 1957 – that’s nestled in the center of the Permian Basin.

“I get the question ‘are the dunes shrinking’, almost everyday,” explains Park Superintendent  Mike Smith.

So, it was only fitting we too asked Smith that same million dollar question!

“We won’t see these dunes go away in anyone’s lifetime that’s alive now,” says Smith.

But, before we give the Sandhills an expiration date, it’s important first to navigate how the dunes came to be.

Odessa College Geology Instructor Dennis Edwards says he grew up visiting the dunes.

“It’s like having your own beach in West Texas,” jokes Edwards.

Based on years of research and surveying the land, Edwards says remnants from the New Mexico Rocky Mountains, eroded by the Pecos River; birthed the dunes.

“Once they were deposited and it becomes drier, the wind begins to blow those sands around,” says Edwards.

The sands settled in what Edwards calls a trap: the Davis Mountains to the south and the cap rock to the north. “They should be here for a long time, it would take another major event to wash that material away,” explains Edwards.

For years, the shifting sands have shaped and reshaped the land. Even causing the height of some of the dunes to shorten at the park.

But, as the whirling winds change direction each season, the dunes remain in a steady state. Which means, the tops might be active over a course of a year, but eventually end up in the same position.

“Significant change takes a very long time.  If you compare photos from when the park was new to now; very, very similar,” says Smith.

The park’s vegetation also keeps the grains rooted in place.

“The predominant plants/species here are Shin Oak or Harvard Oak. Overtime it will encroach on the dunes and eventually stabilize the entire dune field,” explains Smith.

But, research shows we’re thousands of years away from that!

Which is why he encourages visitors to not only come to see the dunes, but conquer them. If you have a ‘staycation’ coming up soon or even need weekend plans…it costs $4 dollars to enjoy the park (children under 12 are free).

Be sure to rent a sand toboggan or sandboard, so you can surf down the dunes! To learn more about SandBoarding, visit slipfacesandboards

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