New Mexico - Nature and Scientific Wonders

One of the strangest sites in New Mexico, White Sands National Monument is part of a 275-square-mile stretch of white gypsum sand dunes in southern New Mexico. Though the area appears barren and hostile to life—there is almost no water at all—it is home to such well-adapted animals as road runners, bleached earless lizards, and kangaroo rats.

Beneath the Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Mountains are more than 300 caves, including the 113 in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. The area was covered by an inland sea about 250 million years ago, and the caves were dissolved by sulfuric acid that seeped through a fossilized reef after the sea had dried up. Tours of the most accessible caves reveal fascinating geological formations, called speleothems.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the southern end of the Rockies. Wheeler Peak, the highest in New Mexico, is 13,161 feet high, and offers stunning views to experienced climbers. It's located in the Carson National Forest, which is home to bears, bighorn sheep and wild horses.

The first atomic bomb in was built in 1945 at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which then was a top secret location. The lab is still used for nuclear research, as well as research into hydrogen fuel cells and supercomputers. The lab's Bradbury Science Museum is open to visitors and has exhibits about the Manhattan Project and the history of the lab.

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