News & Opinion | July 9, 2018 9:45 am

America’s Next Great National Park Might Be in New Mexico

White Sands National Monument could become a National Park. The problem is the land's next door neighbor.

White Sands National Monument (Getty)
White Sands National Monument (Getty)
Getty Images/Blend Images

The White Sands National Monument is otherworldly. Described by Outside  as “the largest gypsum dune field in the world,” its sand stretches for 275 square miles, large enough to see from space, and it’s home to the largest preservation of extinct megafauna tracks in the United States. Mammoth, dire wolf, saber-toothed cat, North American camel and giant ground sloth tracks have been found in the alkali flats of the valley floor.

This place is so unique that legislation introduced in May is advocating it be designated as an official national park.

The problem with that, Outside reports, is that while while the monument is the most popular National Park Service site in the state — generating $29.3 million for the local economy — it’s located “within the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), part of the largest military installation in the United States and the site of the Trinity test, the first atomic bomb detonation.”

The Department of Defense has reportedly wanted land within the park so access to its sites are easier, and failed legislation in the past has tried to appease both interests. Now, as Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico works with the Committee of Armed Services and other legislators to come to a compromise, the state — and the rest of the country — has to wait. As for how long it will take?

“I’m not in the time estimation business,” Henrich told Outside. “But so far, my experience on these kinds of projects is get the details right, play the long game, and they will happen.”

Take a look at some incredible shots from the monument below.

[Toprak, my princess, my co-pilot, helping me carry supplies. Her efforts always going beyond the call of duty.] White Sands— this place is surreal. VERY hot during the summer. We arrived around 4 pm, and it was around 109 degrees fahrenheit. They have ten first come, first serve backcountry camping spots. Because we decided to do the Sunset Stroll with a ranger, which was very informative, and later have some rice and rib-eye in the parking lot, it was 9 pm and pitch black by the time we started out. Because we car-camp, I was not well-equipped for a hike to the spot. Just grabbed a windbreaker, sweater, lots of water, a bowl for Toprak, my @garminoutdoor GPS, and a sleeping pad. When we got there, there was lots of wind, but we toughened through the blowing sand, and hunkered down for the night. I woke up around 2 am, to a dead silent, glowing landscape lit by the moon and stars. It was so bright, yet so dark. Holding a flashlight onto the distance, you’d see numerous tiny spider-eyes peeking at you from their holes. It was just so surreal. Definitely recommend. Ditch the tent. . . . . . #campingwithdogs #wanderer #travelphoto #iamatraveler #visiting #travels #travelphotography #aroundtheUSA #solotravel #worldcaptures #traveler #tlpicks #traveling #exploring #explorer #canonphotography #gypsumdunes #dunes #campinglife #alamogordo #sanddunes #postcardsfromtheworld #traveldeeper #jeepandkangal #crosscountry #roadtrip #newmexico #whitesandsnewmexico #whitesands #whitesandsnationalmonument

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