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Home of White Sands National Monument
Lure of the Tularosa - From the windows of our 2nd floor room on the west side of The Lodge, my wife, Martha, and I could look over the dark green tops of the ponderosa pine trees, down the forested slopes of the Sacramento Mountains, and into the thinly vegetated Chihuahuan Desert shrublands of south central New Mexico's Tularosa Basin. We could see, through the shimmering haze of the summer day, the gypsum dune fields of the White Sands National Monument. From our mountain refuge a mile above the desert floor, the Tularosa seemed ethereal, alien, forbidding, mysterious.
As we knew from many trips across the Tularosa, the heart of the basin lies between the Sacramento Mountains on the east and the Organ and San Andres Mountains on the west. It runs more than 100 miles south to north. It spans 30 to 60 miles east to west. The bleak product of a restless earth and a desert environment, the Tularosa seems like an improbable stage for a long and dramatic chapter in human history. More...
Deserts of the American Southwest
What Is a Desert - Deserts in the Southwestern United States are areas of extreme heat and dryness, just as most of us envision them. More scientifically, deserts, also called arid regions, characteristically receive less than 10 inches of precipitation a year. In some deserts, the amount of evaporation is greater than the amount of rainfall. Semiarid regions average 10 to 20 inches of annual precipitation. Typically, desert moisture occurs in brief intervals and is unpredictable from year to year. About one-third of the earth's land mass is arid to semiarid .
Evaporation is also an important factor contributing to aridity. In some deserts, the amount of water evaporating, exceeds the amount of rainfall. Rising air cools and can hold less moisture, producing clouds and precipitation; falling air warms, absorbing moisture. Areas with few clouds, bodies of water and little vegetation absorb most of the sun's radiation, thus heating the air at the soil surface. More humid areas deflect heat in clouds, water and vegetation, remaining cooler. High wind in open country also contributes to evaporation. More...
Natural Sandstone Arches
Arches National Park - Arches National Park protects the greatest concentration of natural sandstone arches anywhere on earth. Like many other parks on the Colorado Plateau, eroded sandstone provides the palette for sensational and colorful desert vistas. But special geological circumstances millions of years old, have made Arches unique among the breath-taking assets of the Great Basin Desert.
Although Spanish explorers twice came as close as the Colorado River across from Arches National Park in the 1500s and 1700s, it wasn't until 1844 that mountain man Denis Julien first recorded his entrance into the area. Mormon missionaries established Elk Mountain Mission near the town of Moab in 1855, but abandoned the effort after Utes killed three settlers. More...
The Datil Yucca - The Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest utilized the datil yucca for food as well as for utilitarian products. The fleshy fruits were eaten green or dried and stored for winter consumption. Baked, the fruit has a flavor which is reportedly similar to potatoes. In some pueblos, the datil pulp was mixed with berries and made into cakes that could be dried for winter use. The young flower stalks were also eaten, like asparagus.
From the yucca leaf came fibers that were either twisted or plaited together to make cordage. Leaves were soaked in water, then pounded with stones to separate their long fibers. More...
Last Week's Top Story
Comanchero Traders and their Trails - The Comanchero trade, which spanned the arid lands between the Rio Grande settlements and pueblos of north central New Mexico and the buffalo plains of northern Texas, ranks as one of the more bizarre chapters in the history of the Southwest.
It involved a disparate assortment of players: Rio Grande Hispanics, Puebloans and a few Anglos – collectively, the Comancheros – who served as middlemen and transporters for trade goods; the Southern Plains Indians, especially the Comanches and their allies, the Kiowas – all enterprising buccaneers – who stole vast livestock herds and abducted women and children for the trade; New Mexico’s opportunists – Hispanic and Anglo settlers and merchants as well as U. S. Army troopers – who comprised the major market for the Comancheros’ pilfered livestock and slaves and hostages; and ranchers and settlers – both Texan and Mexican – victims who sacrificed their livestock and, sometimes, their women and children to the trade. More...
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DesertUSA is a comprehensive resource about the North American deserts and Southwest destinations. The desert is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors and to spend time in recreational activities. You can camp, hike, bike, fish or just explore this unique environment found only in the American Southwest. DesertUSA has information on national parks, state parks, BLM land, and the Colorado River and its lakes. We also have articles about the cities and towns located in or near the desert regions. Use DesertUSA.com as a resource to explore the many adventures that await you in the desert.