The San Luis Valley
Sand Dunes and Sandhill Cranes
It is a high valley edged by serrated peaks, a remote expanse the size of Connecticut lying, as if forgotten, between two mountain ranges. Here, North America’s tallest sand dunes blow against glacier-gouged summits, the Rio Grande begins its long journey from snowflake to saltwater, and vast reaches of desert scrub hide verdant pocket wetlands. Colorado’s San Luis Valley is not a place for the timid. Sizzling hot in summer, frigid cold in winter, this huge landscape is humbling in its openness, a place defined by the rhythms of nature—and by the thrust and parry of male courting female in the ritual dance of sandhill cranes. These majestic birds arrive by the thousands twice a year to feed, rest, and socialize in the valley’s wetlands—invisible except from the air—and their cries temper the constant wind. Susan Tweit lives in the high desert of southern Colorado not far from the valley’s dunes and wetlands. With the precision of a scientist and the passion of a poet, she guides readers through this land of sand dunes and sandhill cranes, describing its natural features and tracing its human history from buffalo hunters and conquistadors to Hispanic farming communities and UFO observatories. And in stunning images, photographer Glenn Oakley brings his intimate feel for light and landscape to portraying not only the subtle beauty of this high-desert sanctuary but also the grandeur of the cranes in flight. As an intimate look at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and the San Luis Valley, this book reveals a desert place as seductive and sobering as existence itself.
“She’s the perfect ‘guide’ to this remote area’s wonders, revealed in fine black and white photos and descriptions of natural wonders. It makes you wish to visit”—Midwest Book Review“It’s a joy to read her keen observations about wild territory-in the outback, in our hearts-and the many ways it feeds the soul. In some photographs, curves and light and wings become iconic, conveying the desert’s secret language—High Country News“[A ]worthwhile collaboration . . . . should appeal to academics, western history aficionados and ecologists alike.”—Journal of the West