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Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park

 

 

Location: Alamosa and Saguache counties, CO  Map

Area: 84,670 acres (342.6 km2)

Official site

 

 

 

Description of Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park is situated in Alamosa and Saguache counties, Colorado in United States. Great Sand Dunes National Park covers an area of 84,670 acres (342.6 km2) that were left from sand and salt deposits. Originally designated Great Sand Dunes National Monument, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Reserve was created by an act of the United States Congress on September 13, 2004.

 

 

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park contains the highest sand dunes in North America that rise to a maximum height of 230 meters from the floor of the San Luis Valley, at the western base of the Sierra de la Sangre de Cristo. This group of dunes covers about 77 kmĀ² and according to the researchers began to form less than 440,000 years ago.

The dunes are created from the sand and sediment deposits of the Rio Grande and its tributaries that flow through the San Luis Valley. With the passing of the years, winds from the west collect the sand particles from the lands flooded by the river. When the wind loses its strength before crossing the Sierra de la Sangre de Cristo, it deposits the sand at the eastern end of the valley. This process continues and the dunes grow slowly as the wind molds them again each day.

There are several streams that flow through the perimeter of the dunes. These streams erode the edge of the dune field and carry the sand downstream until the water seeps into the earth, disappears and deposits the sand on the surface. The wind lifts the sand deposits and blows them again over the field of dunes. Just dig a few inches even at the top of the dunes to discover wet sand. Part of the motivation to convert the national monument into a Great Sand Dunes National Park was to increase protection over water, desired both by the cities of Colorado and by the farmers in the area.

It is very easy to experience the process of dune formation. It is a very windy region, as can be seen by the walkers who visit it since many days are riddled by sand and even by small stones when they walk on the dunes. These materials are transported by the wind kilometers away and although the dunes do not change place or size very often, there are parabolic dunes that migrate through the main dune field. Sometimes they join this and other times they are covered by grass and vegetation and stay where they are.

The dunes are relatively stable but their morphology changes slightly with the passing of the seasons because their shape is affected with intensity by the direction of the wind. The wind normally goes from the South-West to the North-East but at the end of summer the wind turns around creating remontary dunes. This process is part of the reasons that make the dunes so high.

There are areas of black sand in the dunes that are actually deposits of magnetite, a black and crystalline iron oxide.

 

 

Fees and permits

The entry fee is $20 for each non-commercial vehicle, which includes all occupants. A motorcycle and riders entry fee is $15 total. Oversized vehicles with 15 or more passengers are charged at $10 per person for each person age 16 or older. All fees are for 7-day passes, which allow unlimited re-entry for the week. The Great Sand Dunes Annual Pass also allows free access to the park for one year and costs $40.

There are several passes for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes provide free entry at national parks and national wildlife refuges, and also cover standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation. These passes are valid at all national parks including Great Sand Dunes National Park:

The $80 Annual Pass (valid for twelve months from date of issue) can be purchased by anyone. Military personnel can obtain a free annual pass in person at a federal recreation site by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID.
U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over can obtain a Senior Pass (valid for the life of the holder) in person at a federal recreation site for $80, or through the mail for $90; applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and age. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities. Seniors can also obtain a $20 annual pass.
U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities can obtain an Access Pass (valid for the life of the holder) in person at a federal recreation site at no charge, or through the mail for $10; applicants must provide documentation of citizenship and permanent disability. This pass also provides a fifty percent discount on some park amenities.
Individuals who have volunteered 250 or more hours with federal agencies that participate in the Interagency Pass Program can receive a free Volunteer Pass.
4th graders can receive an Annual 4th Grade Pass that allows free entry for the duration of the 4th grade school year (September-August) to the bearer and any accompanying passengers in a private non-commercial vehicle. Registration at the Every Kid in a Park website is required.
In 2018 the National Park Service will offer four days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 15 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), April 21 (1st Day of NPS Week), September 22 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day weekend).

 

 

 

 

 

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