Welcome to the source of White Sands National Monument. White Sands is known as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Lake Lucero is one of the most unusual geologic features in the modern world it is NOT volcanic in nature but is one of the most fascinating wonders of the southwestern desert, Located just north of the Chihuahuan desert and just south of the White Sands Dune Field. Unlike most of the sand dunes around the world, White sands is not made up of silicon, but rather it is made up of gypsum one of the softer materials on earth. The Lake Lucero area of White Sands is shown in the picture above and to the right of this paragraph.
Lake Lucero is in the middle of the Alkali Flat area as is dry most of the year, but on occasion can be a small lake, rarely over 3 feet in depth. As you can se by the photograph to the left, small crystals of gypsum still remain. As you can see by photograph to the right, you can see a variety of crystal shapes, most of which can be the size of a small football. The gypsum crystals are more commonly called Selenite. They are actually shaped like knife blades and are both thick and thin. As time winds on the selenite crystals are battered by the desert winds and thus continually breaking apart and creating small grains of gypsum.
These grains end up in the White Sand Dunes area, of which only 10-20% is open to the public. The erosion that causes the gypsum sands are typical weathering and erosion processed that the whole country is exposed to. However they are large and heavier that typical silicon sand, they tend to bounce along the ground until they reach white sands, by a geologic process known as saltation. These pictures are showing the incredible variety of shapes that the selenite crystals come in at Lake Lucero. The crystal beds of Lake Lucero continue to grow below ground, and are continually being exposed by the wind.
As you can see from the photograph to the right, how large a pile of crystal can be exposed by a sudden flash flood. The large number of crystals is seen in just a few places but generally are exposed much more frequently by water. One thing to remember about this area is that it is only open one weekend per month by the national park service. Also important to know is that taking these crystals is against the law. Although the visitors take small palm size crystals, and the park officers tend to overlook these small infractions, they will not allow larger pieces to leave the lake area. Below is a small road log to get you to this world wonder.
Easiest way to get Lake Lucero is to first call White Sands and see when they are opening up Lake Lucero to the public and they can give you directions on how to get there. Although this is not a volcanic feature, I felt that seeing this lake was a must for any person interested in seeing geologic features, plus you can say you saw the source of White Sands.
Special thanks to Dr. BETSY JULIAN and Dr. Jerry HOFFER
for their invaluable contributions and knowledge.
This page created by Markus G. Boenisch.