photography from the ground up

The Great Sand Dunes

The Great San Dunes National Park in southern Colorado is one of those places that take you by surprise, at least it did me. All of the images I had seen of the place did not prepare me for the actual experience. You begin to see the dunes from quite a distance, and they grow ever larger as you draw closer.


With the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as a backdrop, the visual contrast is immediately evident. The rugged peaks of the range make the dunes appear soft and sensual.


But the contrasts don’t stop there. The interface of the sand dunes with the surrounding ecosystems teem with biodiversity. There is sage, and there are ponderosa pines. There is a perennial stream (Medano Creek) which serves to return the sand which is blown off the dunes and into the mountains back to the base of the dune field. And, of course there is an abundance of wildlife, from the small to the large, insects and prairie dogs to deer and mountain lions.


Then there are the dunes themselves which tower as high as six hundred and fifty feet above the valley floor. It is an almost surreal scene; imagine part of the Sahara Desert dropped into the middle of the Rocky Mountains.


As you move from one zone to the next, it is a subtle thing. The ecosystems are feathered into one another so there is no definite boundary, but from certain perspectives, the change can seem abrupt.


29 responses

  1. Captivating!


    July 22, 2013 at 8:48 am

  2. Wonderful shots & story Jim. Well done.


    July 22, 2013 at 9:16 am

  3. Fascinating. I enjoyed this so much!


    July 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm

  4. Fantastic Photos.Superb those sand dunes.


    July 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm

  5. What an amazing place, fabulous photos as ever Jim!


    July 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm

  6. great compositions Jim!


    July 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

  7. As you mentioned, the contrasting colors in these photos are great!


    July 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm

  8. Rene Maritz

    Breathtakingly beautiful..thank you so much Jim 🙂


    July 23, 2013 at 1:43 am

  9. Wonderful and hypnotic. Just beautiful.


    July 23, 2013 at 4:52 am

  10. Where is this area in relation to the Mesa Verde? We were there a few summers ago, and I can’t believe I missed out on this!!


    July 23, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    • Melody, it is east of Mesa Verde, about 50 miles east of Pagosa Springs actually.


      July 24, 2013 at 7:31 am

      • It looks so beautiful – so different. I guess we’ll have to come back I remember it now – we had a limited time and had hit a remarkable number of parks (very ambitious touring plans!) and had to draw the line somewhere. Ah, well. At least I get to see it now! 🙂


        July 24, 2013 at 9:05 am

  11. Truly amazing photos! Great job Mr. Caffrey!


    July 24, 2013 at 1:14 am

  12. Nice motive and composition Jim


    July 24, 2013 at 2:57 am

  13. w4j1h



    July 24, 2013 at 8:29 pm

  14. Reblogged this on nikiforivanov.


    July 25, 2013 at 5:25 am

  15. they give a beautiful painting like effect 🙂


    August 1, 2013 at 2:21 am

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