Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail


N 32° 23.106 W 106° 28.665

13S E 360998 N 3584082

You are standing at the gateway to the White Sands Missile Range Museum Desert Walk. The Range is the largest overland Department of Army testing facility in the United States. The area of land managed by the Range is considered one of the healthiest ecological landscapes in the northern Chihuahuan desert. Follow the path to discover the Chihuahuan landscape that the Range enjoys and protects.

Desert Environment: This desert walk is located at 4250 feet above sea level. Here temperatures range from an average high of 92 degrees F to an average low of 36 degrees F in the winter. Rainfall is about 11 inches per year.

The many plants and animals of the desert are adapted to sunny, hot, dry conditions. For example, a black-tailed rabbit has big ears to shed heat, and a light colored body to reflect the sun's rays. It also stays out of the sun during the heat of the day and forages at night. Cacti such as prickly pears have thick skins to reduce water loss and spines to protect against grazing.

Desert Cultures: This desert has been home to many different people, beginning with the Paleo-Indians 11,000 years ago. These people were followed by archaic hunters and gatherers, Jornada Mogolon, Apache, Spanish, Mexican immigrants, and Euro-Americans. These cultures all adapted to the desert, relying on its resources for their existence.

North American Deserts: Deserts are characterized by a scarcity of water and extreme temperatures. There are four unique deserts in North America. The Sonoran is the warmest (on average) and home of the suguaro cactus. The Great Basin receives snow in winter and is dominated by low shrubs such as sagebrush. The Mojave is considered the "high desert" and is known for its extreme temperatures and Joshua trees. The Chihuahuan, more diverse than some forests, is one of the world's richest deserts, containing 1/5 of the world's cacti.