Monahans -West Texas has always been known for being a bit dry, but there’s one sandy spot that seriously seems out of place, even for these parts, the Monahans Sandhills State Park. Park Superintendent Michael Smith understands what it takes to work here.
“My house is covered in sand,” Michael said. “So it’s always sand in everything. Sweep the bed out in the evenings so you can go to bed, ’cause it’s full of sand. To be honest when I drew Monahan Sandhills State Park, I had never seen past the office up there. I was pleasantly surprised, it is a beautiful and unique park. It’s the only place in Texas where this particular type of ecosystem is preserved. And so I’ve been pleasantly surprised ever since.”
This place is literally like a Texas-sized sandbox that provides all sorts of recreation, but playing in it is most popular.
“This is where most families come to play, to dune, what they call duneing, or sliding down the dunes on anything they think might slide,” Michael said. “Children of all ages. There actually used to be a gentleman that lived in Odessa, that came out here regularly, way up into his 70’s, was coming out here and surfing the sand dunes pretty regularly.”
Watching these 60-70 lbs. kids have a hard time going down the hill makes one think what it would be like for grown men to go down.
“I’ve gone down on discs and on boards,” Michael said.“Have not tried the toboggans yet. A long disc.”.
A park since 1957, the sand dunes have been sitting here for very long time.
“So the theory goes that this sand was underneath the last ice age, located in the northern New Mexico, Colorado area, and it was ground under the weight of the ice until it’s much smaller and much closer to perfectly round than most sand is,” Michael said. “And so when the ice melted away, the wind and water was able to blow it this direction, wash it and blow it this direction, until it blew it down into the Permian Basin. So now we’re in a big bowl, and the wind and water can’t have the same effect on it that it had before up on the top. And so it stays down in here, now it blows around a little bit, but doesn’t blow out, and so it moves enough that the vegetation has a very difficult time encroaching on the sand, because it’s moving.”
This sand isn’t your average sand.
“This is the only place in all of Texas where this resource is protected,” Michael said. “So you can go to the beach, you can have your water, but this sand is very unique, it’s different material. It’s quartz, about 97% quartz. It’s almost perfectly round, it’s smaller, and is the only place in all of Texas where this resource is protected. So if you wanna see this type of resource, this is the place to do it. Up is hard, so because of its physical characteristics, the same thing that prevents plants from growing on it, makes it move around quite a bit easier than most other sand. It blows in the wind more, makes it harder to walk on. So I tell people, ‘Down is the easy part. Then you gotta go back up.’”
When you get it in your hands, it just doesn’t feel like going down to the beach.
“That is true,” Michael said. “When visitors are talking to us, one of the most common comments is how good it feels on their feet. Most visitors choose to go barefoot. It’s like getting a pedicure from God. It’s amazing to walk, it feels good on your feet. I’ve never made a reference like that before, that was a first.”
If you want to get the special foot treatment and maybe attempt to sled, summer is usually not the best time.
“When it’s very, very hot, it doesn’t slide as well,” Michael said. “So not only is it just a really, really hot place to be the sun reflects off the sand as well as the direct sunlight, it’s very, very hot in the middle of the summer. Best time to come is gonna be spring or fall. Easter is actually our single busiest day of the year.”
The Monahans Sandhills State park is a great place to see and experience a very unique part of Texas, making it a great stop on The Texas Bucket List.
“…you’re guaranteed to get sand in your stuff,” Michael said.