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Photos: White Sands National Monument

Ancient passage

White Sands national monument

(Image credit: NPS)

Ancient footprints of such animals as mammoths and mastodons, sabertooth cats and the huge 8,000-pound (3,629 kg) ground sloth have been found around and under the dunes; so too have the footprints of early man. National Park Service paleontologists state that "thousands and thousands of trackways" are found across the region. These megatrack sites are the largest ones known in North America from the Pleistocene epoch, which ended some 12,000 years ago.

A grand landscape

White Sands national monument

(Image credit: NPS)

There is no place like it on the planet — this land of massive gypsum sand dunes. It is one of the world's great natural wonders, and it is so easy to visit being only a short 16-mile (26 km) drive from Alamogorda, New Mexico. Some have described it as a lunar landscape, or an ocean of sand or simply a land of splendid desolation. But for those who come and experience these massive white sands dunes, they almost always depart this landscape with a feeling of peacefulness and awe.