Located in the Chihuahuan Desert, White Sands National Park sits in the Tularosa basin, between the San Andreas Mountains to the west and the Sacramento Mountains to the east. The park is completely surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, and with as little as 24 hours notice, the road to the park can be closed by the nearby Holloman Air Force Base.

The Trinity Test Site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945, is located just 60 miles north of the park. Tours of Trinity are offered on only two days per year, in April and October. This year, the April tour was held on April 1st, so we missed it by five days. It’s said that there’s no longer risk for harmful radiation unless materials from Trinity Site are swallowed.

Despite all of the military activity and history, White Sands National Park is a major tourist attraction, drawing in around 780,000 tourists per year. So what’s there to do besides look at the dunes?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, there’s a very informative visitor’s centre. There are also five established nature hiking trails, picnic areas (feature photo), excellent photography opportunities, and even an overnight camping area. Sledding on the dunes is a popular activity, so, of course, plastic sleds are available to purchase.

Here’s a close-up of one of the picnic tables. I would imagine the design is to deflect blowing sand on windy days. The day we were there was perfect, with hardly a breath of wind.

Photo Note: With the clear blue sky and the distant mountains providing perfect contrast to the white gypsum sand, this area is very photogenic. I found with almost all of my photos, all I needed to do in post processing was to tweak the white balance and exposure a bit.

“When we blew the first atomic bomb at White Sands near the end of the war, nobody knew what was going to happen. There was a theory that the chain reaction would continue forever. And we would have created a little tiny sun out there in the desert that would burn until the end of the universe. It wasn’t a widely held theory but it was a theory that nobody had a way of disproving. There were people who thought it wouldn’t go off at all, that it would simply sit out there and melt and produce a great big dirty cloud of radioactivity. Nobody knew.”

Stephen King