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Go with the Flow
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Sand Creek in May

Go with the Flow

Water is rather odd stuff:

  • Water becomes bigger when frozen
  • Water's solid form (ice) floats
  • Water can change directly from a solid to a gas (sublimation)
  • Water is the only natural substance on earth that is found in all three states (solid, liquid, and gas)
  • Water has an unusually high specific heat (it can absorb lots of heat before it gets hot)
  • Water has a very high surface tension (it is magnetically 'sticky' and elastic)
  • Water is odorless, tasteless, and transparent

Because of all these amazing physical properties, water can flow in rivers, transport nutrients through the smallest passageway in your body, and seep deep into underground aquifers. Scientists who study water and how it flows above and below ground are called hydrologists. Since water is so important to humans and to all life on the planet, hydrologists measure its characteristics, predict how much of it there is, and determine where it goes—even when it disappears underground.

In the San Luis Valley there are a variety of aquifers—from shallow to very deep—below the earth's surface. Hydrologists have discovered that some of the deeper aquifers hold water that last saw sunlight over 30,000 years ago.

Explore Great Sand Dunes’ web page on hydrology for more on the flowing waters of the dunes.

Be a hydrologist in the activity below and calculate the flow of Medano Creek.


Action Photos

Medano Creek


Big Spring Creek


Mosca Creek


Medano Creek Flow Rights


Sand Creek Flow for 1995


San Luis Valley Aquifers

Field Notes

Age-Dating Groundwater


Critical Thinking For Teachers


Water Activities For Teachers

Colorado Content Standards
Science: 6th grade 3.2, 3.3; 8th grade 3.2 Math: 6th grade 1.2, 4.1; 7th grade 1.2, 4.2; 8th grade 4.2
Grade Level
6th - 8th Grade
confined aquifer, specific heat, recharge, unconfined aquifer
Hydrology at Great Sand Dunes, Colorado Water Conservation Board
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