Soaking by the Dunes

By Maddie Mansheim

What was once an abandoned pool utilized to raise catfish has grown into a family-oriented swimming area that draws tens of thousands of visitors every year. The Sand Dunes Swimming Pool and RV Park, near Hooper, has revitalized itself into a place frequently visited by both locals and tourists alike. It offers an array of activities that appeal to all ages and provide fun as well as therapeutic treatment.

Originally built in the 1930s, the pool served as a public swimming spot. The hot water was discovered by drillers who were exploring for oil. With that discovery, a mile deep artesian well was drilled; one of the deepest in Colorado. Early visitors swam in a dirt-covered board pool. From that point basic renovations were made, including two cement floors and a small dressing room building.

Read more

Duncan, Colorado – The Story of a Short-Lived Town on the Edge of the Great Sand Dunes

Story and photos by Kenneth Jessen

There are well over 1,500 ghost towns in Colorado. Many are abandoned mining camps spread out over the western half of the state. Among the most obscure is Duncan, located along the western base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

The history of Duncan started in 1874 when John Duncan followed an old trail over Medano Pass into the San Luis Valley. At the mouth of Pole Creek, he discovered some “float,” or gold-bearing ore, that had washed down from the mountains. He constructed a durable cabin made of hand-hewn logs locked tightly together with corner notches. As word got out other prospectors were attracted to the area, and in 1890 a town grew up around his cabin. Duncan then turned from prospector to town promoter, laid out the town of Duncan, and sold lots for $25 each.

Read more

The downsides of parking the monument

Essay by John Mattingly

Sand Dunes – December 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

MY HOME AND FARM are located about eight miles from the northwest boundary of the new Sand Dunes National Park and Wildlife Refuge. I opposed expansion of the Sand Dunes National Monument to a National Park, having a bias in favor of National Monuments. Monuments tend to be smaller, less crowded, primitive with services, and focused on a single natural feature. Parks are pretty much the opposite. It’s a personal preference: I would rather see more Monuments than existing Monuments supersized to Parks.

Read more

New roads to old lands?

Sidebar by Marcia Darnell

Sand Dunes – December 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

The issue of roads is a hot topic in the West, especially as it pertains to federal lands. Speculation as to whether — and where — new access points will be made to the Dunes has been on the table since the first public meeting about converting the monument to a national park.

Read more

Baca Ranch sale for Sand Dunes closer to completion

Brief by Central Staff

Sand Dunes – April 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

Some stories have more twists than a soap opera, and the sale of the Baca Ranch to the National Park Service is one of them. The Baca Ranch, about 100,000 acres, sits in eastern Saguache County between Moffat and the crest of the Sangre de Cristo Range, just north of Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

Read more

Dunes will celebrate Park status on Sept. 8

Brief by Central Staff

Sand Dunes – September 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

It will soon be more or less official: Great Sand Dunes National Park.

All manner of dignitaries are expected to visit the Dunes on Sept. 8 for a celebration of the transformation from Great Sand Dunes National Monument to Great Sand Dunes National Park & Wildlife Refuge.

Read more

Quicksand for the Dunes?

Brief by Marcia Darnell

Sand Dunes – March 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Gary Boyce, managing partner of Farallon, which owns the Baca Ranch, has filed suit against his partners to stop their sale of the ranch to the Nature Conservancy. Boyce is asking for a temporary injunction to block the sale, which he says is proceeding without his consent.

Farallon, based in San Francisco, says it holds controlling interest in the ranch and can sell with or without Boyce. Boyce counters that he has first right of refusal on the property, long the site of battles over water development.

Read more

2 abandoned national monuments

Sidebar by Marcia Darnell and Ed Quillen

Sand Dunes – February 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

THE PLACE formerly known as Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument became a National Park last year, and now the authorities are looking at a similar upgrade for Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

Read more

How many portals to the Great Sand Dunes

Sidebar by Ed Quillen

Sand Dunes – February 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

FOR PURPOSES OF SPECULATION here, let us assume that the entire Baca Ranch becomes part of a Great Sand Dunes National Park. What happens next?

As it is, there is only one entrance gate, about 35 miles northeast of Alamosa by either of two routes — let’s call this the Mosca Gate, since that’s the closest post office.

Read more

And end to the SLV’s water wars? Don’t hold your breath.

Sidebar by Ed Quillen

Sand Dunes – February 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

IF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE acquired the Baca Ranch, would that prevent future water development?

Not necessarily.

The plumbing of the San Luis Valley is complicated, so some background is in order. South of the Sand Dunes, the Valley just drains south into the 1,840-mile Rio Grande, which flows south into New Mexico and Texas before forming the boundary between the United States and Mexico.

Read more

Park or Monument: what’s the difference?

Sidebar by Ed Quillen

Sand Dunes – February 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

What’s the difference between a National Forest and a National Park? Or between a National Park and a National Monument?

Start with the easy one, Monument vs. Park. Both are administered by the National Park Service, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and in general, the same regulations and policies apply to both.

Read more

Soon to be a national park?

Article by Marcia Darnell

Sand Dunes – February 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

A PROPOSAL IS ON THE TABLE to turn the Great __Sand Dunes National Monument into a national park. No big deal on paper, but the long-range implications have San Luis Valley residents talking.

The issues are the increased crowds at the Dunes, and the resulting pollution and development; whether delicate natural habitat would be more or less safe in a park; property tax revenue; road-building; and, of course, water.

Read more