Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay
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 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.
|Views of Blanca Peak|
|Below: distant views of the dunes from the south.|
Showing the spectacular alluvial fan at the outlet of Zapata Canyon.
|Views of the Great Sand Dunes from the Zapata Falls parking area.|
|The creek issues from a narrow slot canyon. This is not a good place to be in a storm.|
|View looking out of the mouth of the slot canyon.|
|Views of the mountain front south of the Dunes.|
|Monument entrance and dunes.|
|Without a doubt the world's most user-friendly wilderness area, and probably the only one you can walk across in your bare feet.|
|This tiny stream largely limits the advance of the dunes|
|Ripple marks and other sedimentary features in the stream bed.|
|The human figures give a sense of scale: The highest dunes are 700 feet (over 200 meters) high.|
|The Visitor Center|
This view from the west clearly shows how the dunes (center) are governed by the gap in the mountains.
|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.|
|Looking south toward Blanca Peak.|
Panorama of the Sangre de Cristo from the north end of the valley.
Created 14 July 2003, Last Update 07 June 2020