Sand Dunes of the Southwest

Monahans Sandhills, TX

Monahans Sandhills

Texas Parks & Wildlife Image

The Monahans Sandhills are part of a semi-arid ecosystem (average annual rainfall 12.3 inches), situated at the eastern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert. Monahans Sandhills State Park is located on privately owned ranch property leased by the state of Texas. The 3,840-acre state park contains dunes up to 70 feet high. These are used for a variety of recreational activities such as sand football, sand surfing, and sand tobogganing.

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. They move and grow in response to seasonal, prevailing winds, so the landscape is always changing.

If a Monahans sand dune has stopped blowing, this is often because a grove of Shinoak trees has stabilized the dune with their extensive root systems. The Shinoak (Quercus havardii) is an unusual type of oak tree. Reaching a height of only 4 feet tall, it is not a stunted or dwarfed form of a larger tree, but a fully mature plant. Shinoaks have lengthy roots which extend down into the groundwater, and they bear an abundance of large acorns.

Fresh water occurs at shallow depths within the dune field and sometimes stands in shallow ponds in low areas between dunes. Wildlife seen on the dunes include mule deer, gray fox, coyote, bobcat, opossum, wild hog, porcupine, skunk, ground squirrel, jackrabbit, cottontail, and rodents.

More than 400 years ago, Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to report the vast hills of sand. Various Indian tribes used the area until the 1880ís. In the late 1920ís, oil production began in the area, which is part of the Permian Basin. Some oil production continues in and around the state park.

Monahans Sandhills

Google Earth image


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