Monahans Sandhills State Park consists of 3,840 acres of sand dunes, some up to 70 feet high, in Ward and Winkler Counties, about a half-hour's drive west of Odessa. A majority of the land was leased in 1956 by the state from a private foundation (Sealy-Smith Foundation) until 2056, and the park was opened in 1957. The Williams family of Monahans, Texas, also leased to the state approximately 900 acres for the park.
More than 400 years ago, Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to report the vast hills of sand. Native Americans were present in this area as far back as 12,000 years ago. Various Indian tribes used the area for temporary campgrounds and a meeting place, finding game, abundant fresh water beneath the sands, acorns, and mesquite beans for grinding into paste with their stone tools. The area remained a favorable environment for Indians until the 1880s, when the Texas and Pacific Railroad selected Monahans as a water stop between the Pecos River and the town of Big Spring. In the late 1920s, oil production began in the area, now commonly known as the Permian Basin, and today Monahans is a marketing center for more than 800 square miles of oil and cattle country.