Monday, May 9, 2016

The Great Sand Dunes National Park, Part One



I really do believe I live in one of the prettiest and most amazing states! Be prepared to see some beautiful Colorado scenery and an outstanding natural phenomena! My husband and I decided to take a four hour car ride to southern Colorado to see The Great Sand Dunes National Park a couple weekends ago.  We began our journey on US 285 over Kenosha Pass--where the sight of South Park--a flat 9,000 to 10,000 foot altitude grassland basin--never fails to amaze me! (All photos in this post will enlarge if clicked on)


The distant Rocky Mountain peaks in South Park were surrounded by misty fog in the early morning sun, and patches of snow could still be seen in some of the shady spots on the vast grasslands.


 As we drove west we could see the grass beginning to become green again with the warmer spring weather.


As always, the sight of the Collegiate Peaks of the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains, near the town of Buena Vista, is a magnificent sight to see!


As we drive south on US 285 the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range appears.


Soon, off to the distance, we can see the long sand dune formations at the base of the mountains. These sand dunes began forming over 400,000 thousand years ago and are the highest sand dunes in North America.


At this distance they seem small compared to the 13,000 foot Sangre de Cristo mountains looming above them, but the dunes reach up to 750 feet in height!


The dunes formation begins in the San Luis Valley, which is a broad plain between the San Juan Mountains on the west (seen in photo above) and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the east. Streams and creeks flowing out of the San Juan Mountains over the millennia carried gravel and sand into shallow lakes in the San Luis Valley. During drought periods, these lakes dried, releasing the sand particles into the wind.


Strong prevailing southwesterly winds carry the grains of sand toward the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and piles them up against the foothills, resulting in the sand dune formations covering more than 30 square miles. As you can see in the photo above, we could actually see the sand blowing east off the valley floor.


We traveled South on CO-17 and then east on lane 6 N and CO-150 North towards ....




After seeing the dunes in the distance for a long time while we drove, it was thrilling to finally be approaching them.


 The full measure of their height and length was amazing.


We stopped at the park's visitors center where we watched a 20 minute movie about the sand dunes formation and the history of the park.


There was a beautiful panorama of the dunes from the visitor's center back porch...

Click to enlarge

..and many interesting placards to read about the history of the area and the preservation efforts.


The dunes and surrounding area were designated a National Monument in 1932. In the year 2000, United States President Bill Clinton signed the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act. The federal government purchased 97,000 acres of the Baca Ranch which tripled the size of the park and preserved the land and water drainage for future generations to enjoy.


One of the fascinating features of the park is the seasonal Medano Creek that runs in front of the dunes


Medano Creek's depth and duration are directly linked to snow pack in the mountains above the dunes.




Above is a short National Park video showing the Medano Creek in full flow


 At the time we visited the creek was flowing in a steady stream...


...but it was still shallow enough in places to cross while still wearing shoes, if one was careful.


It wound around in ripples...


...shallow...


...to deep!


The creek extended far in the distance....


 ...and was a barrier to cross before walking towards the dunes. 

The amazing thing is that the Medano Creek only appears in spring and by summer disappears below the sand and is no longer visible.  I'm glad we were able to see it!


Imagine playing sand volley ball at the base of a snow capped mountain in Colorado? 


Come back next post, to see part two, and I'll show you what it is like to walk up the dunes!


The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve--a wonder of the world and a Colorado treasure!


I'm linking this post to the following blog events:

Thank you to all the blog hosts!

Bookmark and Share Pin It

42 comments:

Margaret Adamson said...

Utterly amazing scenery and what great fun when the creek is there in the spring time. Loved the vidoe also

Neesie said...

I have to say that's totally weird (and wonderful) to have snowcapped mountains alongside sand dunes. Amazing!
Your post is so interesting and the photography transports you right there.
Thank you so much for sharing Pat. I'll look forward to seeing Part 2.
I hope you have a great week ahead.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, Pat! What a gorgeous road trip. The scenery along the way is lovely, the mountain views are fabulous. The park sounds like a great place to visit. The climbing the sand dunes and playing in the creek look like fun! Awesome photos! I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!

Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

LV said...

I agree with you, Colorado is truly a beautiful part of our country. Been there several times, but each trip you see something more awesome. I truly enjoyed this grand tour with you. My niece has a cabin near Hartsel and goes to Buena Vista often.

Linda W. said...

I've heard of this national park, but never seen any photos. Thanks for sharing your experience. Can't wait for part two!

happywonderer.com said...

Another amazing part of our country. Thanks for walking on the sand and sharing these photos with us. Now I'm going to google map this to see exactly where it is.

Tamar SB said...

Amazing!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

It really is hard to describe or imagine unless you visit there! Wonderful photos as always. You are so sweet to give us info about so many interesting places to visit. Hard to imagine the snow on the mts for us here in FL...near 90 every day this week! Hugs, Diane

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Pat, I'm totally fascinated by the creek and the dunes. I had not heard of this National Park. What a wonderful place to visit. You are quite the guide and proponent of Colorado. They should make you their ambassador! I look forward to part 2 of your visit as you take us up a dune. I've climbed Jockey's Ridge in NC and that was quite a trek. Enjoy your day, Pat! ♥

Lady Fi said...

How majestic and lovely!

jeannettestgermain said...

Wow, wow, wow, you do live in one of the most amazing states! As a Dutch person I'm used to have dunes by the sea, so this is very different. And also to have flats on such an altitude (in California, not so) - Thank you so much in sharing all this beauty with SEASONS- it's a real treat! See you very soon:)

Daniela said...

What a paradise on earth, dearest one, you always leave me in awe and speechelss as soon as I watch to your stunning photographs, it's always such a delight to be here !

Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day, my adored Pat, I wish you a most wonderful new week ahead, sending much love and blessings of Joy to you

Dany

Donna said...

Wow Pat! I have seen very little on this amazing spot. That creek that appears is wonderful and I can't wait to see more....truly spectacular is nature!

NC Sue said...

Wow - amazing place! I'd never heard of it. Thanks for letting me visit through your photos.
So glad you linked up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-cats-of-san-juan.html

CountryMouse said...

Wow, so interesting. I had never thought of their being and dunes there. Amazing landscape and the view across the plains to the mountains in the distance is breath taking. I love the contrast of the dunes and snow capped mountains. How lucky you were to see the creek.

The Furry Gnome said...

Pretty neat place!

carol l mckenna said...

It is a gorgeous state and you are certainly getting around and have beautiful photos of your journey ~ thanks for sharing ~

Happy Week to you ~ ^_^

Annesphamily said...

We have the wildest weather anywhere!But the scenery makes up for that craziness. There isn't anyplace in Colorado I don't love to visit. Your photos are always lovely Pat and thanks for sharing them. Have a great week.

Jeanne said...

Hello Pat, The four hour drive to the Sand dunes was definitely worth the trip. Wouldn't your grands have fun in the creek? It is a long drive for little ones though. As always I loved learning about the dunes and the park. The Colorado mountains in the background never fail to amaze.

I did have a wonderful Mother's Day and I bet you did too. We both are blessed with wonderful families that love and care about each other.

Happy Blue Monday and thank you for your sweet comment about my photo.
Hugs,
Jeanne

Andrea said...

Colorado landscape is really very famous for a lot of things about the earth. I just so feel so deprived that i haven't been in any part of it. What you showed in your photos are all amazingly beautiful, and enormously scary at the same time. Creations at its best in a grand scale.

Mersad said...

I have seen a lot of Colorado from your blog, and I must agree with you, the beauty is really unmatched. Love the sweeping mountains views, roads winding down into the valley and the contrast of orange sand and white mountain tops. Thank you for linking in with "Through My Lens".

Mersad
Mersad Donko Photography

Denise inVA said...

Colorado is a state I have yet to explore Pat. Your photos are amazing. What a spectacular area and one I enjoyed seeing through your photos. Thank you so much!
All the best,
Denise
Latest post: http://anenglishgirlrambles2016.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-fairy-garden-revisited.html

Ruth Rieckehoff said...

Some of your photos look like paintings! I am amazed by the beauty of Colorado (and the West)too. Seems like it is not the place where you will expect to see sand dunes but there they are.

bettyl-NZ said...

What a great time you must have had--the scenery is just marvelous!! I never imagined that Colorado had sand dunes. The things we learn. That stream looks fun, too.

Jo May said...

Hey Pat, when you lived in New York I loved every photo and blog post, now you have moved to Colorado, and man-O-man! Just look at this awesomeness!!! Wowser!!! Love this also. Thank you for visiting "Living On Loblolly Lane", I hope you remember me from old blog "Lazyonloblolly"-someone
high-jacked that blog, if you want to look in your blog list and if the old blog is there feel free to go see, it is in a foreign language, you can delete it if you wish.

Rambling Woods said...

Totally different from my NY state and thank you for including the video...Michelle

TheNotSoGirlyGirl said...

oh wow beautiful!

Kate said...

Thank you for the tour! I love the snow on the mountains...and in contrast, the sand dunes!

Vee said...

Is it beautiful? For the shapes? The mountains? It looks barren and wild. Walking in sand is a work-out! I could not have gone far so am wondering how far the two of you managed.

Ida said...

Wow that was amazing and beautiful.

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

It is an amazing state indeed and I enjoy seeing it through your eyes and camera. I never knew there were sand dunes there...I just thought a lot of mountains :)

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Really interesting read, Pat. It almost looks like a desert in Arabia or something - not the U.S. west. My brother once visited, but I'd never seen photos of it. Thanks for posting.

Nancy's Notes said...

Oh Pat, absolutely breathtaking photography!! We do love all the beauty Colorado has to offer!! Love your state!!
Nancy

diane b said...

What an amazing place. I learn so much from your posts. The creek is a wonder too. I would have thought that it was very cold water since it is melted snow.

edenhills said...

Wow! That is amazing.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

You really do live in one of the most beautiful States, that is absolutely for sure. Woe! You climbed the dunes! We visited this beautiful park and took a million pictures of sand patterns and so forth and so on (it was summer though, so no creek) ... we walked a lot, but didn't try to climb . I'll come back to see yours.

Nanda Kumar said...

Fantastic glimpses

Lisa Kerner said...

I agree, you do live in one of the most beautiful states. I am in awe of the vistas there in CO. And, for the record, I would climb the dunes once to slide down, but I am betting it wasn't too fun climbing up. ;-D I look forward to part 2.

Lisa @ LTTL

thehiddenpanorama.com said...

That's a great trip, thanks for writing this one, and I hope I will have a chance to these all...

Ola said...

The landscape is beatiful!

Florence said...

What a spectacular road trip! From mountains to sand dunes, just lovely. Have a wonderful week!

Art and Sand said...

I have never heard of this park.

Thanks for sharing this beautiful spot with SYC.