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Published and Copyrighted:
Lost Planet Media
2005































The Shifting Sands
of the Middle East Far West

The mysterious landscape is full of rolling hills and valleys of sand , some of the most impressive you'll find, and oftened compared to the shifting sands of great deserts like the Sahara or the Gobi... but these dunes are in Texas!

Prehistoric man hunted giant bison and huge, hairy mammoths here thousands of years before Columbus discovered America. Later, Native American tribes, mainly Apache and Comanche, frequently camped in the sand hills where they found a dependable source of pure, fresh water just beneath the surface of the sand. They also found plentiful game and an abundance of acorns and mesquite beans to grind into nutritious meal.

Spanish explorers in the mid-1500's were the first to report the vast hills of sand, calling them "perfect Miniature Alps of sand." The nearly 4,000 acres of sand dunes that undulate through Monahans Sandhills State Park are just a fraction of a sandhills region that extends about 200 miles and reaching almost into the White Sands region of New Mexico.

The area remained a favorable environment for Indians until the 1880s, when the Texas and Pacific Railroad selected Monahans as a water stop between the Pecos River and the town of Big Spring. In the late 1920s, oil production began in the area, now commonly known as the Permian Basin, and today Monahans is a marketing center for more than 800 square miles of oil and cattle country.

Resembling the great dunes of the Sahara and sometimes reaching 70-foot in height, the sandhills were the subject of much speculation for early conquistadors and later westward-bound pioneers.

The dunes are located about a half-hour's drive west of Odessa. A majority of the land was leased in 1956 by the state from a private foundation (Sealy-Smith Foundation) and was officially opened to visitors in 1957. The Williams family of nearby Monahans also leased to the state approximately 900 acres for the park.

The area remained a favorable environment for Indians until the 1880s, when the Texas and Pacific Railroad selected Monahans as a water stop between the Pecos River and the town of Big Spring. In the late 1920s, oil production began in the area, now commonly known as the Permian Basin, and today Monahans is a marketing center for more than 800 square miles of oil and cattle country.

Facilities at the state park include a new Visitor/Interpretive Center; campsites with water; electricity, and shade shelters; campsites with water for tent campers; an equestrian day-use area of approximately 600 acres; a group dining hall (constructed in 1903 and first used as a railroad section house) with a kitchen and a restroom; a self-guided, 1/4-mile nature trail; and one working oil well.

The park is only a small portion of a dune field that extends about 200 miles from south of Monahans westward and north into New Mexico. Most of these dunes are stabilized by vegetation, but the park is one area where many dunes are still active. Active dunes grow and change shape in response to seasonal, prevailing winds, so the visitor may experience a dynamic landscape.

Fresh water occurs at shallow depths within the dunefield and sometimes stands in shallow ponds in low areas between dunes. A quiet vigil near such ponds at dusk or dawn is the best way to observe wildlife.

Points of interest nearby include Balmorhea State Park; Million Barrel Museum in Monahans; the Odessa Meteor Crater, a national, natural landmark; and the Cities of Midland and Odessa.
Camping fees vary; entrance fee. For reservations, call 512/389-8900. Current weather conditions can vary from day to day. For more details, call the park or Park Information at 1-800-792-1112.

To reach the park, travel Interstate 20 and Exit Mile Marker #86 to Park Road 41.

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