What to do in Monahans Sandhills State Park

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. The land was leased in 1956 by the state from a private foundation (Sealy-Smith Foundation) until 2056 and was opened in 1957.

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.

The park is open seven days a week years round, with March through August being the busiest season.

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, possum, 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.

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 (has 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.

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.

Points of interest nearby include Balmorhea State Park; Million Barrel Museum in Monahans; the Odessa Meteor Crater, a national, natural landmark; and the Cities of Midland and Odessa.

Camping and entrance fees vary. Current weather conditions, including fire bans and water levels, can vary from day to day. For more details, call the park or Park Information at 1-800-792-1112.

Recreation
Activities include camping; hiking; picnicking; bird and wildlife watching from the interpretive center windows, as they come to the watering stations; and sand surfing. There is dune tour in a 4 x 4 utility vehicle; tour fees apply; reservations at the park required. There is also a nature trail with a self-guided tour.

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

Climate
The Monahans Sandhills State Park is located at an elevation of 2,724.67 feet. Temperatures within the park range from an average January minimum of 29 degrees and an average July maximum of 96 degrees. The park has an average annual rainfall of 12.3. inches. Current weather conditions can vary from day to day. For more details, call the park or Park Information at 1-800-792-1112.

Address
P.O. Box 1738
Monahans, TX 79756

Phone: 915/943-2092

  • Monahans Sandhills State Park Travel Q&A

advertisement

advertisement