White Sands National Park, located in New Mexico, USA, is uniquely nestled within the White Sands Missile Range. Spanning over 145,762 acres in the Tularosa Basin, it includes the southern portion of a vast 275 square mile field of white sand dunes. These dunes are primarily composed of gypsum crystals, making this the largest gypsum dunefield on Earth. The park's features include dunes reaching up to 60 feet in height and an estimated 4.5 billion short tons of gypsum sand.
About 12,000 years ago, the Tularosa Basin was characterized by large lakes, streams, grasslands, and Ice Age mammals. As the climate warmed, the gypsum from surrounding mountains dissolved into rain and snowmelt, eventually being carried into the basin. The continuation of warming and drying led to the evaporation of these lakes, resulting in the formation of selenite crystals. Strong winds then fragmented these crystals, dispersing them eastward to create the gypsum sand seen today, a process that is still ongoing.