Monahans Sandhills State Park - Texas

US National Parks and Monuments Travel Guide: US-Parks.com

History

Monahans Sandhills State Park consists of 3840 acres of sand dunes, some up to 70 feet high, in Ward and Winkler Counties, about a half-hour's drive west of Odessa. A majority of the land was leased in 1956 by the state from a private foundation (Sealy-Smith Foundation) until 2056 and was opened in 1957. The Williams family of Monahans, Texas, also leased to the state approximately 900 acres for the park.

More than 400 years ago, Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to report the vast hills of sand. Man was present in this area as far back as 12,000 years ago. Later, various Indian tribes used the area for temporary campgrounds and a meeting place, finding game, abundant fresh water beneath the sands, acorns, and mesquite beans available for grinding into paste with their stone tools. The area remained a favorable environment for Indians until the 1880s, when the Texas and Pacific Railroad selected Monahans as a water stop between the Pecos River and the town of Big Spring. In the late 1920s, oil production began in the area, now commonly known as the Permian Basin, and today Monahans is a marketing center for more than 800 square miles of oil and cattle country.

Activities

Activities include camping; hiking; picnicking; equestrian; bird and wildlife watching from the interpretive center windows, as they come to the watering stations; and sand surfing. Texas Camel Treks are held at the park.

Tours

Tours are free with paid entry to the site. On pictograph tours, guides lead visitors to various areas of the site, showcasing examples of pictographs representing three distinct cultures. Guides also provide information about the site's geology, flora, fauna, and history. All tours subject to guide availability.

Area Attractions

Nearby attractions are the Franklin Mountains State Park, Magoffin Home State Historic Site (the only historic home site in El Paso). And the Wyler Aerial Tramway, the only public accessible tram in Texas, the City of El Paso, and Fort Bliss.

Campsites and Other Facilities

Available facilities include a new Visitor/Interpretive Center built to ADA specifications; campsites with water; electricity, and shade shelters; campsites with water for tent campers; an equestrian day-use area, of approximately 600 acres, that has a staging area with hitching posts and water for horses; a group dining hall (constructed in 1903 first used as a railroad section house) with a kitchen and a restroom; an interpretive center with restrooms and a snack machine; a self-guided, 1/4-mile nature trail; and one working oil well. The Group Dining Hall is available for family reunions, birthday parties, etc. Also, there are picnic sites with shade shelters; a group picnic pavilion; a trailer dump station; and restrooms with showers (heated in the winter). Sand toboggans and disks can be rented at park headquarters. Take time to stop by the Texas State Park Store.

The Dunagan Visitor Center

The Dunagan Visitor Center features hands-on exhibits of the cultural and natural history of the Sandhills, including Dune Dynamics, Permian Basin Heritage, and Wildlife Habitat. Scenic windows offer spectacular viewing of birds and other wildlife as they come to food and water. Park orientation is available.

Natural Features

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. Active dunes grow and change shape in response to seasonal, prevailing winds, so the visitor may experience a dynamic landscape.

Fresh water occurs at shallow depths within the dunefield and sometimes stands in shallow ponds in low areas between dunes. A quiet vigil near such ponds at dusk or dawn is the best way to observe wildlife such as mule deer, gray fox, coyote, bobcat, opossum, wild hog, porcupine, skunk, ground squirrel, jack rabbit, and cottontail.

Shinoak (Quercus havardii), one of the plants which stabilize the dunes, is not a stunted or dwarfed form of a larger tree but a fully mature plant which bears an abundance of large acorns and usually stands less than four feet tall.

Elevation

2,724.67 ft

Weather

Average January minimum 29; average July maximum 96; average annual rainfall 12.3 inches.

Address

Box 1738, Monahans TX 79756

Directions

To reach the park, travel Interstate 20 and Exit Mile Marker #86 to Park Road 41.

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