Vegetation Inventory and Map for Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

San Luis Lake
Dunes and Mt. Herard above San Luis Lake

NPS Photo


The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is located in Colorado's San Luis Valley. Due to low precipitation, a short growing season, and high elevation, the valley is described as a high cold desert. The vegetation patterns are unique within the valley compared to its surroundings. The valley floor includes a broad hydrologic gradient ranging from open water wetlands and saline flats and playas to xeric shrublands and active and stabilized sand dunes. The lower slopes along the base of the mountains support grasslands and shrublands and transition into woodlands of mostly pinyon pine mixed with occasional Rocky Mountain juniper. The montane valley bottoms are typically steep and narrow and tend to support a very compressed riparian zone with a diverse mix of riparian and upland species. The subalpine forests tend to transition abruptly into alpine tundra, willow shrublands, alpine fellfields, and areas of barren bedrock and scree.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Vegetation Inventory Project delivers many geospatial and vegetation data products, including an in-depth project report discussing methods and results, which include descriptions to vegetation associations, field keys to vegetation associations, map classification, and map-class descriptions. The suite of products also includes a database of vegetation plots, and accuracy assessment (AA) sites; digital images of field sites; digital aerial imagery; digital maps; a contingency table listing AA results; and a geodatabase of vegetation, field sites (vegetation plots, and AA sites), aerial imagery, project boundary, and metadata.


The products of vegetation mapping projects are stored and managed in the National Park Service's Data Store, a repository for documents and publications relating to park resources. From the highlighted items below, click on the type of information you are looking for.

Last updated: October 11, 2018