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White Sands National Park

White Sands details the astonishing discovery of 23,000 year old human footprints found mingled with the tracks of Ice Age megafauna. Richly illustrated with original artwork, graphics, and stunning photographs, it offers a comprehensive portrait of the park's dynamic geology, climate, and human story and explains the astonishing adaptations of plants and animals to life on its pure white gypsum dunes.


Introduction: Flow

Whether slowly or swiftly, everything at White Sands National Park is moving. The air changes quickly here, from clear and still to murky and turbulent. Cool mornings surrender to hot afternoons that yield to the deep cold of night. Wind rises and falls, shaping sand into ripples and whipping grass tips in circles. The dunes shift, the sky wheels from sun to stars, and the seasons spin, bringing insects and flowers, dormancy and darkness. Even the surrounding mountains are moving, slowly rising from faults in the earth. 


The dunes are open and free and full of light. There is nowhere on Earth quite like them. White Sands National Park encompasses 115 square miles— about 42 percent—of a 275-square-mile expanse of gypsum sand dunes in southern New Mexico. Small fields of gypsum dunes are found elsewhere; dunefields as vast as this one are not. This dunefield is visible from space. Only one other place is known to have a gypsum dunefield as extensive as this one: the planet Mars. 


In 1933, White Sands was proclaimed a national monument in order to preserve "the white sands and additional features of scenic, scientific, and educational interest." Decades later, White Sands researchers discovered the world's largest known concentration of fossilized Pleistocene ice age footprints, where tracks of dire wolves and saber-toothed cats mingle with those of massive mammoths and ground sloths and the footprints of the people who lived among them. Later research revealed a highly unusual relationship between the region's groundwater and a shallow aquifer under the dunes, which explains the presence and persistence of the dunefield. 

Comments from Reviewers

Through this captivating narrative, Susan Lamb's writing unearths the park's many mysteries. From the ancient fossilized footprints, the continuum of human history through thousands of years, the rapid adaptations of its plants and animals, the importance of water, and the many more surprises that require an extra glance to notice and understand.

 –Kelly Carroll, Chief of Interpretation, White Sands National Park