Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
San Luis Valley, Colorado
I had been to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve twice in my years in Colorado, but I hadn’t shot the park because both trips were during my pre-photography years. Not to mention one of those trips involved way too much tequila…
Located in the vastness of the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado, Great Sand Dunes National Park encompasses 44,246 acres with the preserve protecting an additional 41,686 acres. Over the past 440,000 years, the dunes have been forming from sand and soil deposits of the Rio Grande and its tributaries, flowing through the San Luis Valley. Over the ages, glaciers feeding the river and the vast lake that existed upon the valley melted and the waters evaporated. Westerly winds picked up sand particles from the lake and river flood plain and as the wind lost power before crossing the Sangre de Cristo Range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley.
This process continues and the dunes are still slowly growing today with the wind changing the shape of the dunes daily. There are several streams flowing on the perimeter of the dunes, which erode the edge of the dune field and sand is carried downstream. The water disappears into the ground, depositing sand on the surface. Winds then pick up the deposits of sand and blow them up onto the dune field once again.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve also contains alpine lakes and tundra, six peaks over 13,000 feet (3,940 m) in elevation, ancient spruce and pine forests, large stands of aspen and cottonwood, grasslands, and wetlands — all habitat for diverse wildlife and plant species.
The park was originally created as Great Sand Dunes National Monument on March 17, 1932 before Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve was established by an act of congress on September 13, 2004.
After visiting Death Valley National Park and spending time shooting the Mesquite Sand Dunes, I wanted to make sure I got down to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, revisiting it and seeing the park from my new perspective.