Aerial views of Lençois Maranhenses from the SE corner of the dunes near Lagoa Bonita.

Lençois Maranhenses National Park is a coastal dune field (measuring some 155,000 hectares) that is flooded with fresh water lakes during the January to May rainy season.  Strong prevailing winds from the East mobilize the barchan dunes during the dry season and, combined with the equatorial sun, evaporate the lakes and prevent permanent vegetation from taking root.  The dunes are composed of quartz grains that are eroded from the granite and washed down from the Parnaiba River and then carried north by ocean currents before being deposited on the coast of Lençois Maranhenses.  The name means "bed sheets of Maranhão Province", as from above they resemble undulating sheets of pure white.

Brazil Dunes

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On the Atlantic coast of Brazil is one of the most unusual dunescapes in the world, known locally as Lençois Maranhenses (the bedsheets of Maranhão). During the rainy season the region gets some 60 inches of precipitation, which floods the dune field. During the dry season, intense sunlight and strong trade winds dry up the lakes and the dunes resume their advance into the tropical forest. This 400 square mile area is a national park, but families living in and around it are allowed to continue traditional subsistence activities of fishing, farming, and goat herding. At the end of the summer rains, when these pictures were taken, it’s one of the most beautiful and unique landscapes on earth.

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