Weekend Window: Great Sand Dunes

The vacation spot known as Great Sand Dunes National Park, in southern Colorado, boasts the tallest sand dunes in North America.

"The dune field itself is about 30 square miles of large dunes, but there is about 300 square miles of sand and sand deposits around that," said park ranger Patrick Myers.

Visitors will find the landscape, which includes the 14,000-foot Sango de Cristo Mountains in the background, an ever-changing mystery and beauty.

"There is no place on Earth like the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve," said Charles Bedford of Nature Conservancy. "It has this Elian wind cycle of wind and water, turning these dunes and changing them perpetually.

"There isn't a day that you can come to this place when it is the same as the day before," Bedford said.

Besides the altering landscape, another thing that draws visitors to the dunes is its user-friendly nature.

Even though the dunes are a designated wilderness area, "it is a place where you can build sand castles," Myers said. "You can slide on the sand on a snowboard, or even on skis, as long as you don't damage the vegetation."

And the continent's largest sand box also has a bevy of indigenous creatures.

"Bison and elk, antelope and deer are common to this valley," said Bedford. "It is a rich and productive valley because of the way the water moves out onto the water floor and creates floorage for these grazing animals. Bison have been here for hundreds of thousands of years."

The combination of sand, activity and animals has made the sand dunes a perfect family destination.

"For many people that we have found, it has become a landmark in their lives," Myers said. "It is a place where they have brought their children, when they were little, and they continue to come back. It is a place where the winds have gathered the sand, and it seems to have gathered the people here, too, in the same sense."

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