Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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This is not a place you stumble onto by accident. You don't find this place unless you deliberately set out to.

The San Luis Valley of Colorado isn't overly hard to get to, but sandwiched between the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo Mountains, it conveys a feeling of isolation hard to equal.

Aerial View

Aerial view of the dunes, looking south. Blanca Peak is in the distance, Crestone Peak in thr foreground. Both are over 14,000 feet. The mountains east of the dunes are about 9,000 feet. The wind funnels through the saddle but slackens as it rises, dropping its sand at the base of the mountains.

If you want to disappear completely, these mountains are as good a place as I've ever seen to do it.

Blanca Peak

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Views of Blanca Peak
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Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Below: distant views of the dunes from the south.
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Panorama of Blanca Peak

Showing the spectacular alluvial fan at the outlet of Zapata Canyon.

Zapata Falls

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Views of the Great Sand Dunes from the Zapata Falls parking area.
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Great Sand Dunes, Colorado The creek issues from a narrow slot canyon. This is not a good place to be in a storm.
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Great Sand Dunes, Colorado View looking out of the mouth of the slot canyon.

Panorama of San Luis Valley From Zapata Falls

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Views of the mountain front south of the Dunes.
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Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Monument entrance and dunes.
Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Without a doubt the world's most user-friendly wilderness area, and probably the only one you can walk across in your bare feet.
Great Sand Dunes, Colorado This tiny stream largely limits the advance of the dunes
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Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Ripple marks and other sedimentary features in the stream bed.
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Great Sand Dunes, Colorado The human figures give a sense of scale: The highest dunes are 700 feet (over 200 meters) high.
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Great Sand Dunes, Colorado The Visitor Center

Dune Panoramas

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This view from the west clearly shows how the dunes (center) are governed by the gap in the mountains.

Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Lag deposits west of the dunes. Sand blows across the valley and accumulates at the base of the mountains where the winds slacken. I hoped to find this area rich in ventifacts but to no avail.
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Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Looking south toward Blanca Peak.

Panorama of the Sangre de Cristo from the north end of the valley.


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Created 14 July 2003, Last Update 01 July 2012

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