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White Sands' Lost River

  • Jan 16, 2012 · 6:15 AM

Known to few, White Sands National Monument has a river. Enthusiastically named Lost River, it is dry most of the year (including now). It's home to a local endangered species, only found there, the White Sands pup fish. The park service does not advertise and seldom discusses this important portion of the park, because of its remote location and fragile ecosystem.

If you're tired of Alkali Flat and would like something different (as different as you can get at WSNM), this is a nice change. If you're training for the Bataan Death March, this is also a great training hike.

I would like to make it to the river, and if time permits to the northeast corner of the park to see the monument's "million dollar fence" designed to keep Oryx from entering the park.

Jan 2, 2012 is a federal holiday, and is the best upcoming day for this—we're unlikely to be blown up or maimed by military activity. We will remain in the public, no-permit-required area of the park.

A quick summary of the dangers on this hike:

  • Dehydration: Even though it's unlikely air temperature crests 65°F, sunlight reflects off the sand making you feel much hotter, dehydrating you faster. This is in the deep dunes/desert, you must carry all of your own water.
  • Military debris: There is a lot of military-related debris and litter once you leave the comfort of Dune Drive. DO NOT TOUCH IT!
  • Remote: This is deep in the dunes and desert. If you need rescue, it will take a long time to get it.

Later in January, I'd planning an even longer, more strenuous & difficult hike to White Sands' Lake Lucero (25 mi). If interested, please do this hike first to determine whether you can handle anything more difficult.

DISTANCE is 16–17 mi round-trip.

ELEVATION GAIN is a couple dozen feet absolute, but because of the up and down of the dunes will probably net to a couple hundred feet.

FEES: Free (WSNM is free for MLK weekend). Of course, if you carpool, please compensate your driver for gas!

DURATION: 8–9 hours, finish by mid/late afternoon.

PET FRIENDLY? No—unless you think your pet can do this kind of mileage.

SKILL LEVEL is NOT beginner friendly. No whiners!

TERRAIN includes sand dunes, ranging from medium-coarse (the kind you see around Dune Drive) to extremely fine & sticky (towards the Lost River). Many dunes to traverse, though fortunately the ones in this part of the park are not particularly big. Sand is, obviously, loose and difficult to walk through.

WEATHER is unknown, hopefully clear.

AFTERWARDS we may get dinner.

MEET for carpool at:

  • Las Cruces: 6:15 am, K-Mart parking lot on North Main/US 70 and Del Rey, near Shell. See map (OpenStreetMap or Google Maps).
  • El Paso: 5:30 am, Walmart at Transmountain/US 54 at the west-most parking lot towards US 54. See map (Google Maps). Note: your organizer is not meeting here, please self-organize!
  • White Sands National Monument entrance: 7 am (park opening).

MORE information:

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  • michal

    photos may be viewed from the prior day Ortega Canyon hike... or the link posted above may work??

    January 20, 2012

  • Darlene

    Plan C was so much fun! Thanks for letting us tag along Michal!

    January 17, 2012

  • Samat

    Did Ortega Canyon w/ Michal from Alamogordo instead. A bit more difficult than expected but fantastic plan C hike!

    January 17, 2012

  • Samat

    FYI UPDATE: Autistic teenager walked 30-plus miles, found after overnight search at White Sands (5:15 p.m.) - Las Cruces Sun-News -

    1 · January 17, 2012

  • Samat

    Just a note on dress code: it'll be a little chilly in the morning, but will warm up quickly. You may want gloves but as for upper layers, leave the coat at home and go for something lighter that you can take off. With the high wind forecast, please make sure you've some wind protection too.

    January 15, 2012

  • Darlene

    Looks like I'm the only one coming from El Paso. I'll meet y'all in Las Cruces.

    January 15, 2012

  • Samat

    My knee isn't in good enough shape to do 16 mi next week? unless someone else can lead, moving this to Jan 16 (next federal holiday).

    December 27, 2011

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  • Samat
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