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The common mineral gypsum, a hydrous form of calcium sulfate (CaS04.2H20) is rarely found in the form of sand because it is soluble in water. Rain and snow that fall in the surrounding mountains dissolve gypsum from the rocks and carry it into the Tularosa Basin. Normally, dissolved gypsum would be carried by rivers to the sea. But no river drains the Tularosa Basin. The water, along with the gypsum and other sediments it contains, is trapped within the basin. This makes White Sands sanddunes unique. This is a close-up picture of gypsum sand grains.