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Rare ‘Surge Flows’ Are Turning Colorado’s Sand Dunes Into a Waterpark

It’s bodysurfing time at Medano Creek.

A young splasher enjoys surge flow season in 2015.
A young splasher enjoys surge flow season in 2015. Patrick Myers/National Park Service/Public Domain

As visitors to Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park are learning, nature has its own version of everything—including water parks. According to 13 Action News, it’s surge flow season at Medano Creek, which means tons of revelers are enjoying a galloping ride across the dunes, propelled by wide, gentle sheets of water.

As a video by the National Parks Service explains, Medano Creek is a meltwater creek, fed by snowfields up in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The water rushes downhill until it reaches the dunes, where it spreads out and laps across the sand.

“Surge flow occurs when underwater sand ridges build up” and break down quickly, causing miniature waves, says ranger Patrick Myers in the video. This makes it great for consistent, low-key bodysurfing and tubing, all with a mountainous backdrop.

Medano Creek is one of the only places in the world that experiences surge flow, and this year’s wet spring means the waves might get pretty gnarly—“In wet years, waves can surge up to a foot high,” the NPS reports.

You can check up on the presence of surge flow, as well as other relevant conditions, at the National Park Service’s Medano Creek page. The best news right now? “Mosquitoes have not yet emerged in any significant amount.” Cowabunga!

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