Wednesday, May 22, 2013

White Sands Missile Range and White Sands National Monument

White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) is a rocket range of almost 3,200 square miles in parts of five counties in southern New Mexico. The largest military installation in the United States. Traveling US Hwy 70 between Alamogordo NM and Las Cruces NM you encounter signs that tell you the highway may be closed at times due to missile testing. We did not encounter a closure but were told that on average it is closed twice per week for 1-2 hours each time.

Organ Mountains
South Side of WSMR
We visited the WSMR Missile Park and Museum. More than 50 missiles are on display including a Pershing II and Patriot. Most of us remember the Patriot from the Gulf War where it was used extensively against SCUDs. The museum traces the history of the U.S.'s missile and space activity and the birth of the atomic age. The Trinity Site where the first nuclear device was tested is on WSMR. This part of the range is open to the public 2 times per year – the first Saturday's of April and October.

Pershing II
Patriot Missile Launcher

If you were in Roswell and saw this just what would you think?
See the explanation in the following picture

I know a few people in Oklahoma that need these for their storm shelters!!
Rattlesnake Warning Sign
I wonder if this little guy read the sign above

  Within the Missile Range is the White Sands National Monument. This is in the mountain-ringed Tularosa Basin and is a formed by gypsum sand dunes which cover 275 miles and is the world's largest gypsum dunefield. Gypsum is rarely found in the form of sand because it is water soluble. Normally, rain would dissolve the gypsum and carry it to the sea but this basin has no outlet to the sea and as the wind erodes the gypsum crystals in to fine sand like particles and dunes are formed. We found that we should have worn sunglasses on our visit here – the sand is so bright white and with the desert sun shining brightly it was blinding. Unlike dunes made of quartz-based sand crystals, the gypsum does not get hot and can be walked upon with bare feet even in the hottest weather.

Proof that you can walk barefoot in the
sand in the hottest weather

Walking on the dunes is not only allowed but snow saucers can be 
purchased in the visitor center for dune sliding.  We saw families set up
in picnic areas spending the day at the waterless beach.

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