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Bruneau Sand Dunes are located in an Idaho State Park about 65 miles south of Boise. The dunes are unique in that they form near the center of a natural basin rather than at the edge. For about 20,000 years these dunes have grown and remained surprisingly close to their birthplace. They exist thanks to a unique combination of:

  • sand, presumed to originate from the Bonneville Flood 15,000 years ago
  • relatively steady winds from the southeast and from the northwest
  • a natural geological depression

These dunes are an anomaly in Southwest Idaho’s predominantly semi-arid grass and sage land which ekes a living out of vast fields of ancient lava flows. Rising 470 feet above the small lake that anchors the park, the main dune is reported to be the largest single-structured sand dune in North America. The 600-acre patch contains marsh, desert, prairie and dune habitats.

In the 1970’s I tried, unsuccessfully, to soar with the wind from the top of the largest dune with the aid of a too-large-for-me hang glider. The landing was soft, but the hike up the dune, wrangling that cumbersome kite, was a battle.

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Cited: Idaho State University: Digital Atlas of Idaho; Idaho’s history online Photos: Linda Paul