The Great Sand Dunes National Park,at purple marker, is located in the southern part of the state, near Alamosa. Yearly visitors to the park are in awe of this wonder of nature.
This is one of the mysteries of Colorado. How did these dunes form in a land locked state? Prairie winds can be hurricane force, that much is known, but to move great amounts of sand?
Why doesn't the sand bank up against the Rocky Mountains, not that far away?
Geologists have been studying this phenomenon for years. They have concluded that the winds couldn't carry the heavy sand over the mountains, so it falls short.
Also, Medano Creek runs along the base of the mountains and pushes the sand back out onto the plains.
For thousands of years, this has been going on and little by little the sand dunes were formed.
There is also folklore and mysteries about how the sand dunes were created. A Ute Indian tale tells of a chief who sold a native girl to a nearby rancher.
The rancher adopted the daughter as his own. Eventually, the chief wanted the girl back and the rancher refused him. They engaged in a fatal fight out where the dunes began. Both men died.
When a storm came up, their bodies were buried under tons of blowing sand, never to be seen again. And the first sand dunes were born.
Another question is how the dunes continue to grow and stay stable?
Geologists concur that the streams, snow and spring runoff help to keep the sand under the dunes wet enough to prevent shifting, while the drying sand on the top continues to blow around, sort of like snow drifts.
If you choose to visit this national park, plan to do so during cooler months. The summer sun is very hot and can make the sand a very toasty 140 degrees F. Think twice before going barefoot!
To get to the park by car, take Interstate 25 south and exit at Hwy. 160 west and follow the signs to the sand dunes.