A sea of dunes of dazzling whiteness stretching as far as the eye can see … Welcome to the White Sands, a desert of white sand located in New Mexico and the largest deposit of gypsum in the world. It is this crystalline mineral that makes up the sand and gives it its brilliant color. The formation of this type of sand is rare and requires a specific geography: it comes from Lake Lucero, located in the southwest of the desert.
This lake is normally dry, but sometimes fills with rain from the surrounding mountains. This rain is loaded with gypsum which is soluble in water. Once the lake dries up, the gypsum builds up in the form of wind-beaten crystals, which eventually erode and the particles of which accumulate further to form these dunes. This phenomenon, which has taken place for around 10,000 years, is at the origin of the formation of these 710 square kilometers of white sand.
The thickness of the sand is about 9 meters on average, but some dunes reach 18 meters in height. The White Sands are home to wildlife that has adapted to arid conditions. Some of the 800 animal species present even developed colors close to that of sand.
300 square kilometers of this desert have been protected since 1933. This area officially became a national park in December 2019.