Great Sand Dunes National Park with Zeb the Duck

Colorado is hundreds of miles from any large body of water, but we have sand dunes.   Let’s go to Great Sand Dunes National Park and see the highest sand dunes in North America.

Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado

As we drive to the Visitor’s Center, we stop to admire the view.

Road to Visitor’s Center

These dunes are probably close to 440,000 years old.   The Great Sand Dunes National Park covers 33,549 acres (13,576 hectares).   That’s a lot of sand.   Our first stop is usually the Visitor’s Center, and here we are.

Visitor’s Center

Let’s see what they say about today at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.   The summer sand surfaces reach 140 degrees F, (60 C) but this is a nice day in late September.    So walking on the sand is fine.   Wear closed toe shoes and monitor pets’ feet.   The humans are wearing appropriate shoes and we have no pets.   No, I, Zeb the Duck, am not a pet.   I am the star of this blog.   Back to the car, we drive a short distance, park and then start walking on the sand.

A long walk for a small duck

It is hard to walk in loose sand, so mom takes off her shoes.   That only lasts about 10-15 minutes.   Sand too warm, shoes back on and off we go again.   Getting closer, we see people already on the dunes.   They sure look small.   We still have a lot of sand walking to do.

Getting closer. Humans ahead

There really are several humans on the dunes.   They sure are tiny.   They will walk and hike on the dunes, some will sand board down the hills and we even saw some with a hang glider.   All so much fun, but quite strenuous to climb the dunes to enjoy a favorite way back down.  My little duck legs are screaming for mercy.

As far as my short duck legs wanted to walk

OK mom, this is enough.   Now, tell me, how did all this sand get here?   The sand dunes are in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado.   The San Juan Mountains are to the west and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are to the east.   Most of the sand comes from the San Juan Mountains, about 65 miles (104 km) west of us.   The valley was once a huge lake and sand and sediment settled in the lake.    As the lake reduced, winds from the southwest bounced the sand piling it against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.   Northeasterly storm winds blast through the Sangre de Cristo Mountain passes, piling dunes back on themselves, creating North America’s tallest dunes, 750 feet (213 m) high.   That’s what we learned at the Visitor’s Center.  Walking back toward the car, we stop to admire the view.

Heading back towards car

A great view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  We love these sand dunes, here in Colorado.   The elevations in the national park range from 7,500 feet (2,286m) to nearly 14,000 feet (4,267 m) above sea level.   Climates change with the altitude, so be sensible and be prepared.   In the spring Medano Creek runs through the Great Sand Dunes National Park.   Snow collects in the Sangre Cristo Mountains from October into April, then with spring warm up, the snow melt feeds the Medano Creek which flows through the national park, providing great entertainment for human visitors.   While feeding the underground aquifers for the San Luis Valley, the creek seems to have tide movements providing great fun for small and adult humans as they enjoy the cool water in the hot sand dunes.   We were there in late September, so there was no water in the sand dunes.

Path of Medano Creek in the spring

But we could see where the river runs in the spring.   Mom, we need to come back here in the spring.   Driving a little more in the national park, we found the amphitheater.

Amphitheater

Our national parks have interesting presentations, but today’s presentation had been cancelled.   The Great Sand Dunes National Park is open 24 hours a day.   At night, be sure to enjoy the incredible display of stars on a clear night.   We hope you visit here.   We think you will find it very interesting and a lot of fun.