Sand Dunes of the Southwest

Little Sahara, UT

Little Sahara, UT

Wikipedia Public Domain Image

The Little Sahara is a 124-square-mile system of giant, free-moving sand dunes located in the Sevier Desert of central Utah. Most of the sand at Little Sahara is the result of deposits left by the Sevier River, which once flowed into ancient Lake Bonneville. After the lake receded, the southwesterly winds that blow across the Sevier Desert picked up the exposed sand. Sand Mountain, in the middle of the dune field, deflected the wind upward, causing it to slow and drop its load of sand. The dunes are still moving to the north and east between 5 and 9 feet per year.

The “Rockwell Outstanding Natural Area” at the Little Sahara provides habitat for a diverse array of plants and animals among the scattered junipers, sagebrush, and grasses typical of the Great Basin. Mule deer and antelope, fifteen species of birds, the desert whipsnake, and eight other species of reptiles live here.

The dune fields of Little Sahara are the only place in the world where giant four-winged saltbush grows naturally. Special adaptations such as rapid root growth, huge size, and the ability of stems to develop roots, enable this unique plant species to survive in the harsh environment of shifting sand.

Two of the world’s largest sandboxes have been set aside at the Little Sahara, adjacent to the White Sands Campground and Jericho Picnic Area. Each of the play areas encompasses several acres, and each is fenced to provide a clean, safe haven for children.

Little Sahara, UT

Google Earth image

References:

http://www.utah.com/playgrounds/little_sahara.htm

http://www.utah.com/schmerker/1999/little_sahara.htm

Website design and content (c)2010 by Peter Olsen. This educational unit study was my PVCC honors project for GPH 211 Landform Processes.