National Geographic : 1957 Jul
"Traffic is our number-one problem," Tom explained. "People like to race and cut cor ners on the Loop Drive. Patrols help, but our cars and rangers are spread too thin. "Some visitors ignore the no-dune-driving signs; they don't realize the danger. If they don't bog down near the road, the bigger dunes beckon. Usually they leave the car imbedded and hitchhike for help." Ex-cowpuncher Battles Drifts Perhaps the busiest Park Service man is Joe Shepperd, an ex-cowpuncher who puts in endless hours aboard a road grader. The more the wind blows, the harder Joe works. Often you find him hard at it by dawn, using his grader like a snowplow. "We used to fight the sand," he said. "Now we cooperate with it. If a dune wants to cover the road, we bulldoze another route around the dune." Joe and I had been chatting outside the museum. Johnwill Faris joined us. "Been looking for you," he said. "Let's take that ride I promised you." 118 / + Cool, Thick Adobe Walls Shelter Monument Headquarters and Museum In 1933 the Federal Government set aside some 140,000 acres as the White Sands National Monument, thus preserving Lake Lucero and roughly one-third of the gypsum desert. Prehistoric Indians apparently avoided the White Sands; remains of their fires, pottery, and arrowheads have been found only along the desert's rim. In the 17th century Spanish explorers came this way, leaving behind a wooden-wheeled cart, now on display in the museum patio. Today visitors total 282,000 a year. + A shallow ditch uncovers abundant water only a few feet down, but high mineral content makes it too strong to drink. Surface evaporation and reflection of the sun's rays keep sands relatively cool.