SAND DUNES — Great Sand Dunes invites visitors to participate in free events through early September. Events include bird walks, the annual Junior Ranger Day, historical reenactments and cultural demonstrations, an artist workshop, and an amateur astronomy night. All events are free of charge, entrance fees into the park are $20 per vehicle and valid for seven days.
• On Saturday, August 18, join Jay and Esther Clark and other historical reenactors at the visitor center between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., followed by a more formal presentation from 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the outdoor amphitheater to learn about the daily life of Buffalo Soldiers. Buffalo Soldiers served their country by protecting area settlers and American Indians while stationed at Fort Garland and patrolling the San Luis Valley.
• On Saturday, September 8, Great Sand Dunes will host their second annual Amateur Astronomy Night from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the South Ramada Picnic Area near the Dunes Parking Lot. Telescopes will be set up for planetary and deep sky object viewing and ranger-led tours of the sky will kick off the event. Throughout the evening, rangers and volunteers will serve cosmic cocoa and lead educational activities to learn more about constellations and planets. Astronomers of all levels are invited to Great Sand Dunes to share their telescopes and unique astronomy experiences. Warm clothing, rain gear, head lamps with red lights, and sturdy shoes are recommended.
• Celebrate the Year of the Bird with a birding hike along Mosca Pass Trail on Saturday, September 15 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Join Joe LaFleur, author and bird enthusiast, for a guided bird walk that features hands-on identification of migrant and resident birds in habitats including forest, creek and meadow. Beginners are welcome, ages 10 and up; bring binoculars and good walking shoes.
Colorado abstract painter, Paula Jo Miller, will be hosting a workshop at Great Sand Dunes visitor center on Saturday, October 6 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Materials will be provided at no charge but visitors can bring their own canvas and paints. Great Sand Dunes, with their sweeping forms and colors, are abstract art in themselves, so an abstract approach is a natural way to capture the subtle colors and shapes of the dunes and their surroundings. Class is limited to 8 participants, reserve your spot by calling 719-378-6343.
For more information on special events at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, visit www.nps.gov/grsa or call the visitor center at 719-378-6395.
Ongoing through October
Free afternoon, sunset and evening ranger programs will be offered from July to October, throughout the summer and fall at various park locations. The park will also offer solar scope viewings on the back porch at the visitor center on Thursday through Sunday afternoons. Visit the park visitor center, check the park website at www.nps.gov/grsa, or call the visitor center at 719-378-6395 for a full schedule of ranger programs, including start times and locations. The visitor center is open, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily through the summer and fall.