Each year for a few short months Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve’s Medano Creek makes a splash with an amazing natural phenomenon that turns the sandy dunes into a giant waterslide.

When the snow in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains begins to melt, the water flows down to Medano Lake and around the basin of the dunes where it transforms in to a flowing stream. For the STEM lovers, there is a science behind the occurrence, which is referred to as surge flow.

As a video created by the National Parks service explains, when the water trickles down it creates underwater ridges in the sand that build and break creating waves in the water. A perfect example of why Medano Creek is often referred to as “Colorado’s natural beach.”

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The surge flow has just begun slightly late due to a slower melting rate this season. It should hit peak flow in the few weeks and continue through June. If you’re hoping to catch a ride and go sand-surfing on this natural water slide, however, be prepared for crowds and opt for a weekday if possible as June is typically the busiest month to visit the park.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Great Sand Dunes National Park via Flickr

 

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