Sand Dunes WSA Location: Sweetwater County
Nearest Town: Farson (13 miles)
BLM Acreage: 27,109 acres
Recommended for Wilderness: 21,304 acres
Primitive & Unconfined Recreation:
Outstanding opportunities for primitive unconfined recreation are readily available. Hiking in the dunes is strenuous but can be a rewarding experience. Other activities include bird-watching, hunting, sightseeing and photography.
Birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds and killdeer, are relatively abundant in parts of the area. This provides an unusual opportunity for viewing and photography in nearby areas of the high desert.
The outstanding scenic quality of this WSA enhances the recreational values. The moving sand dunes provide for a dynamic rather than static viewshed.
The Sand Dunes WSA encompasses 27,109 acres, including 600 acres of split estate land, 640 acres of state land and 160 acres of private land. The study area comprises a large part of the Killpecker Sand Dunes. There are large areas of barren active dunes with superb draws and valleys, wet meadows and interspersed greasewood, sagebrush and rabbitbrush communities.
The WSA is essentially in a natural condition. The intrusions found in the WSA are considered minor and do not detract from the apparent naturalness of the WSA. These intrusions include three producing wells in the eastern part of the WSA, two abandoned well sites within 509 feet of the WSA boundary, an old corral in the southwestern part, and a deteriorating barbed wire fence in the northern part of the WSA. There are also intrusions due to motorized vehicles in the northern part of the WSA.
The large dunes in parts of the WSA make it possible for a visitor to experience the naturalness of the area because man-caused disturbances are not apparent. The constantly changing nature of the dunes adds to this feeling.
The rails of the abandoned U.S. Steel railroad were removed from the railroad bed at the western boundary of the WSA. The bed is about 3 feet above the rest of the original right-of-way. Currently the railroad bed is used by four-wheel drive and some two-wheel drive vehicles. Drifting sands have already obliterated some portions of the railroad bed.
Many wind-blown basins exist within the WSA. The draws, valleys and ridges in the northern and eastern sections also provide outstanding opportunities for solitude due to the screening effect they offer. The size of the WSA and the large amount of active sand dunes create further opportunities for solitude. The variety of dunes, from active to stabilized, adds to the uniqueness of the area.
Ecologically, the most unique feature of the Sand Dunes WSA is the eolian ice cells that feed pools at the base of many large dunes. These are formed as snow and ice accumulate on the leeward side of the dunes and then are covered by blowing sand. These pools range in depth from a few inches to 10 feet deep. Some are crystal clear and almost devoid of life, while others are muddy, murky and alive with tadpoles, salamanders, insects, waterfowl and various grasses and algae. The dunes help support the only desert elk herd in Wyoming.
The Sand Dunes WSA lies within a short distance of two very important archaeological sites. These are the Finley site and the Eden-Farson site where a distinctive projectile point gave evidence of one of man’s earliest inhabited sites in North America. Therefore, it is highly probable that other significant sites may be located within the WSA.
The area is home to wild horses, mule deer, elk and large numbers of pronghorn antelope. Raptors and coyotes frequent the area, and there are reports of cougar use.
Part of the Sand Dunes WSA lies within the Greater Sand Dunes Recreation Area of Critical Environmental Concern. The ACEC management plan provides wildlife and cultural resource protections and promotes appropriate recreation use.
The greatest special feature of the WSA is the dunes themselves. White sands change the landscape with every wind storm, building 100-foot drifts and hiding all imprints of man’s visits.