Sand dunes at Monahans a stopping place for centuries

Compiled by Kevin Wilson

For more than 12,000 years, the sand dunes of Monahans, Texas, have been traveled through by man. For the Clovis/Portales resident, the dunes can be traveled to by present man in a car ride of about three hours.

What is it?
The park, according to its Web site, contains 3,840 acres of sand dunes, with some as high as 70 feet. Most of the land was leased to the state from private corporations and individuals.

The Monahans Sandhills were visited by Spanish explorers more than 400 years ago, and various Indian tribes used the area as a temporary campground and meeting place. Oil production began in the Monahans area in the late 1920s, and the park includes an active oil well.

How to get there:
Monahans is located about 215 miles from Clovis, 195 from Portales. From Portales, travelers will want to take NM 206 through Lovington. Drive through Lovington on South Main Street, which becomes N.M. 18 South. After about 70 miles, you’ll enter Texas and you’ll be 34 miles from I-20. When you reach I-20, exit along mile marker 86 to Park Road 41.

When to go:
Though open all year, the park reports its most popular season is from March to August. The park Web site provides a link to upcoming weather conditions to help plan a few days in advance.

What is available for activities?
Activities include camping, hiking, picnicking, bird and wildlife watching from the interpretive center windows, as they come to the watering stations and sand surfing (a lot like sledding).

Camel tours need cash:
A company called Texas Camel Corps offers a camel trip for a fee. Participants will learn to load, unload and work the camels as they move through the dunes. Those taking the tour must be able to hike three to five miles per day. The company charges $400 for an adult and $200 for a child (14 and under) The fee includes all meals, guides and park fees. Reservations are required; visit www.texascamelcorps.com or call (254) 675-HUMP (4867).

What you might not like:
Lots of walking. Many of the activities related to the park include self-guided trails, and many dunes will require climbing.

Information:
Available online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us, or call (432) 943-2092.