A nearly 200-acre tract of undulating sand dunes surrounded by land managed by the National Park Service is being donated to Guadalupe Mountains National Park by The Nature Conservancy.
The 177-acre Gypsum Dunes Preserve, the second-largest dune field in the coterminous United States, is surrounded by the Salt Basin Dunes, which is owned by the Park Service.
"There is literally no other place like this in Texas and very few places on Earth that compare. These dunes not only provide some of the most enchanting views you'll ever set eyes on, they are incredibly important from an ecological perspective as well," Laura Huffman, state director for The Nature Conservancy of Texas, said in a news release. "We are delighted this extraordinary place will remain in the public trust for the people of Texas and visitors from all over to enjoy for generations to come."
Projecting into the northeastern corner of the arid Chihuahuan Desert, Guadalupe Mountains National Park often is described as one of America's best-kept natural secrets. Filled with magic and majesty, the park ranges more than 5,000 feet in elevation from the desert floor to Guadalupe Peak, the tallest point in Texas.
The landscapes within the park span from starkly beautiful gypsum dunes and salt flats to lush streamside woodlands, rocky canyons and mountain forests, where more than 400 species of animals and 1,000 species of trees and other plants can be found.
The gypsum dunes were donated to The Nature Conservancy in the early 1980s by the estate of Dorothy Croom. More recently, the Conservancy managed the property in cooperation with the National Park Service, and the Hudspeth Directive for Conservation.
"We are very pleased that this preserve will join the established protection of the Salt Basin Dunes by the National Park Service in perpetuity," said Linda Lynch, founder of the Hudspeth Directive for Conservation. "The preserve is part of an important, larger desert ecosystem, encompassing the expansive salt basins to the west. We hope one day these desert pans will also be conserved and we view this donation as an important step towards that goal."
The dunes are located approximately nine miles outside of Dell City, Texas, just west of the historic Butterfield Stagecoach Trail. The public can access the dunes by hiking in through the western park boundary or by contacting the Pine Springs visitor center.
"Places where the public can explore and enjoy the rugged beauty of wilderness are so revered in Texas because there is very little public land. Severe cuts to vital conservation programs make collaboration between private, public and non-profit agencies all the more important," said John V. Lujan, a former superintendent at Guadalupe Mountains.