For a mountain lover, Colorado is nirvana.
For a beach lover, not so much.
Record Snow Pack
Like many of the interior states, Colorado is land locked. Over one thousand miles, and two days of driving will finally get you to southern California or the coast of Texas. If you want to go to the beach and enjoy the waves, you’ve got a long drive ahead of you.
Sure, on a really windy day in Nederland, you might get a few white caps on Barker Reservoir, but it’s nothing like actual waves or surf.
Except this year.
Colorado’s record snow pack is bringing waves to an unusual location.
In Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo mountains, snow pack levels currently sit at 438% of normal. Above normal snowfall combined with a very cold and snowy March have piled up a lot of snow high above the city of Alamosa.
Finally, in the past week, temperatures have surged into the 80s, melting a lot of snow in a short amount of time. That water comes surging out of the mountains along Medano Creek, which eventually runs into mountains of sand.
Pulsating Water = Waves
According to park officials at Great Sand Dunes National Park, the sand breaks down the sand, forming dams. As the rushing water breaks against the dam, the waves form every 20 seconds.
As I listened to the story today on Public Radio, memories of my childhood flooded over me.
My grandmother loved the beach and used to rent a beach house at the ocean in New Jersey. Or as the locals called it, “The Shore.”
Like any little kid, I loved running through the surf, splashing around the water, and riding a boogy board.
As the reporter described children riding inner tubes on the crashing waves, a smiled crossed my face imagining the joy “the surf” brought them.
A visit to Great Sand Dunes is spectacular any time of the year. What could be more breathtaking than seeing 700-foot sand dunes set against a backdrop of 14,000-foot snowy peaks?
But this phenomenon of getting waves crashing on sand is pretty unique. The type of surf visitors are getting to experience is directly related to this record snow pack. Snow levels in early June are more than we might see for years, or decades to come.
What’s so cool about the dunes, is that once you’ve splashed around in the water, you can use your surfing skills on the sand. With sandboards available to rent, you can take that feeling of riding the wave onto the dunes themselves.
Great Sand Dunes is about a 4 1/2 drive from Nederland, so makes a great weekend destination. Camping is available in the park, and the nearby town of Alamosa offers ample lodging.
So if you’re a sand and water lover, this just might be the perfect time for a visit to the dunes. With run off not slated to peak until late June, you’ve got plenty of time to enjoy a day at the beach.