The Sandhills Are Alive!
Monahans Sandhills State Park is 6 miles northeast of Monahans, north of Interstate 20. Admission: $2 per person (free age 12 and younger). Day-use hours: Daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
The Dunagan Visitor Center rents sand disks for $1 per hour; disks must be returned by 5 p.m. The store here stocks books on Texas, wildlife, and the outdoors, as well as postcards and other items. The museum, in the same building, features interactive displays and stone tools dating to 1,200 years ago. Visitor center hours: Daily 8-5. A self-guided nature trail (the park's only trail) originates from the visitor center, and bird-watering stations positioned outside the windows create a show for birdwatchers. Only the Visitor Center and picnic areas are wheelchair accessible.
The park offers 3 picnic areas and 25 campsites ($6-$9 per night), with restrooms and showers nearby.
The Section House Picnic Area, a popular sliding spot with parking and covered picnic tables, is named for the circa-1903 Railroad Section House, now a dining hall and kitchen that is available for rent ($20 for up to 6 hours, $40 for more than 6 hours).
Because of the ever-present wind, no ground fires are permitted. Pets are allowed on leashes (or reins, in the case of horses).
Sunscreen is recommended year round, as are sunglasses and tie-on hats. You are allowed to wander any–where in the dunes, but please respect the plants and wildlife. Slide only on those dunes where wind has prevented the growth of vegetation.
To reserve a campsite or the Section House dining hall and kitchen, call 512/389-8900. For park information, write to Monahans Sandhills State Park, Box 1738, Monahans 79756; 915/943-2092; www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/monahans.
Nearby Attractions The Million Barrel Museum in Monahans occupies the site of a huge, in-ground oil storage tank built by Shell Oil Company in 1928, when oil was coming out of the West Texas ground faster than it could be shipped away. The tank was filled only once, then abandoned. In the '50s, a local entrepreneur envisioned turning the tank into a recreational lake. Unfortunately, it proved to be less than watertight and had only a brief life as a boating and swimming mecca. Today, the tank is a venue for concerts, chili cookoffs, and other events, and the grounds are home to antique oil equipment, the area's first jail, a vintage caboose, and the refurbished and period-furnished Holman House, built in 1906 across from the old passenger-line depot. Hours: Tue-Sat 10–6. Admission: Free, but donations accepted. The museum is at 400 Museum Blvd. (off of Sealy St.) in Monahans; 915/943-8401. Buildings not wheelchair accessible.
The Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum in Pyote (pie-oat), 15 miles west of Monahans on I-20, houses World War II memorabilia and other historical items donated by area residents. This small museum offers some gems for those interested in this period of history. Hours: Sat 9-5, Sun 2-6. Admission: Free. Write to Box 201, Pyote 79777; 915/389-5691 or 389-5660. To get there, take the Pyote exit 115 from I-20, and go north to the corner of 11th and Ward streets. Wheelchair accessible with assistance.
Less than an hour southwest of Monahans is Balmorhea State Park, home of one of the world's largest spring-fed pools (open year round). Balmorhea has meeting rooms, campsites, cabins, a picnic and playground area, and a reconstructed wetlands area. To reserve a campsite or cabin, call 512/389-8900. For general information, write to Box 15, Toyahvale 79786; 915/375-2370; www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/balmorhe. Some camping and picnic areas are wheelchair accessible.
From the November 2001 issue.