National Monuments & Parks

Culture, History & Nature

NEW MEXICO MONUMENTS

Ancient Cultures, Conquistadors and Cowboys

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18 in total. 12 written up. 6 more to go.

  • BANDELIER
    BANDELIER
  • BANDELIER
    BANDELIER
    Bandelier's builders were likely settlers migrating from Chaco or Mesa Verde. All three were sites occupied by Ancestral Puebloans; however, each flourished during different time periods. Mesa Verde thrived between 500-1300 AD, Chaco between 500-1300 AD, and Bandelier between 1100-1550 AD. Each reached peak population at different times, with Chaco and Mesa Verde preceding Bandelier. However, trade and migration occurred throughout New Mexico’s history, including in the ancient world. These large communities were known throughout the region, with people traveling to them from other areas to engage in trade and commerce. There are many examples throughout the southwestern United States of large communities that were abandoned after centuries of human settlement. People moved for a variety of reasons. Water and war seem to be common root causes in New Mexico. Most migration patterns involve relocating to areas with reliable water sources. By the time the Spanish arrived the population was concentrated along the major and minor tributaries, with the heaviest density along the Rio Grande, Rio Pecos and Rio Chama. Many Pueblo migration stories recount how ancestors moved from place to place over time, including the well-known sites. It is possible that Mesa Verde’s inhabitants, or others that followed, may have briefly reoccupied Chaco sites. (505) 672-3861, ext. 517 for visitor center.
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  • CHACO CANYON
    CHACO CANYON
  • CHACO CANYON
    CHACO CANYON
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  • EL MALPAIS
    EL MALPAIS
  • EL MALPAIS
    EL MALPAIS
    The jagged, desolate landscape of El Malais is a volcanologist’s playground. The landscape was sculpted by a million years of ongoing volcanic activity. The field of lava was generated by numerous volcanoes and several lava flows, active until about 800 years ago, which is to say they haven’t been napping for long. There are five layers of lava from McCartys Crater, Bandera Crater, Cerro Hoya, El Calderon, and Twin Craters, with a variety of volcanoes and volcanic features represented within the flows. McCartys crater, a shield volcano visible from Highway 117, is one of the youngest volcanic features in the continental United States. It erupted 500-1000 years ago, an event referenced in both Acoma and Zuni oral history. Acoma lore refers to lava flows that inundated the cultivated fields of their ancestors. If so, this would place the McCartys flow as occurring between 700 – 1540 AD. The Grants lava flow is part of the Bandera-Zuni lava flows, which includes Mount Taylor and Bandera crater. Mt. Taylor, towering on the northern horizon, is a large stratovolcano. It created the oldest lava flows in the area, 1.5-3.3 million years old. Bandera is one of the best, and most accessible, examples of a cinder crater. The lava tubes cascading from Bandera are some of the longest in North America. Neither Mount Taylor or Bandera are part of the Monument or Conservation area, but they are part of a larger volcanic picture prevalent in northwestern New Mexico. The Zuni-Bandera field covers more than 1500 square miles. It lies on the southeastern boundary of the Colorado Plateau, at the intersection of the Rio Grande Basin and the Jemez alignment. This is a “transition zone,” an area where the thickness of the earth’s crust varies dramatically. Hiking, caving lava tubes and backcountry exploration for intrepid outdoor enthusiasts. Not a good environment for young children or dogs.
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  • EL MORRO
    EL MORRO
  • EL MORRO
    EL MORRO
    Encompassing 2 square miles, El Morro is one of New Mexico’s smallest, and most peculiar, national monuments. It was established in 1906 to preserve the inscriptions and petroglyphs lining the base of the cliff, as well as the partially excavated pueblo village of A’ts’ina on top of the mesa. El Morro is also an oasis on the arid plains of western New Mexico. A natural water cache at the base of the mesa has formed a deep pool, replenished by snow melt and run off, providing a year-round, reliable source of fresh water in an otherwise parched environment. This was the camping spot of choice for people trekking the Acoma-Zuni trail over the last 1000 years or so. Relics of ancient Paleo and Archaic hunters, dating back thousands of years, have been found in the area. The petroglyphs left by the ancient Puebloans inspired a tradition continued by each successive wave of explorers and settlers in the region, with each leaving a chiseled history noting their passage on the walls of the mesa. In total, there are more than 2,000 inscriptions and petroglyphs. El Morro serves as a monolithic stone tablet, documenting three distinct periods: Ancestral Puebloans from up to 1,000 years ago, Spanish conquistadors from 1605 to around 1800, and American settlers and soldiers after 1800. (505) 783-4226
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  • FORT UNION
    FORT UNION
  • FORT UNION
    FORT UNION
    Fort Union was established by Colonel Edwin V. Sumner in July, 1851, several miles north of the junction of the two main branches of the Santa Fe Trail, on a tributary of the Mora, Wolf Creek (also known as Coyote Creek and occasionally Dog Creek). The location was chosen for several reasons. 1) Sumner deemed Santa Fe as “morally degrading.” There were a lot of bars and brothels, which provided too many tempting distractions for soldiers. 2) Financially it was less expensive to use soldiers to construct a fort, and to farm, than to lease buildings or purchase provisions. 3) Problems with Comanche, Ute, and Jicarilla Apache along the southern route of the Santa Fe Trail jeopardized the primary supply line to the new territory. Troops could patrol and could be more readily mobilized and dispatched from the Plains than from the Sangre de Cristos. Fort Union’s presence on the Santa Fe trail created a dual purpose for the installation: military support and supply depot. Sumner stationed the district’s chief quartermaster and ordnance office at Fort Union. The massive amount of supplies needed to maintain the U.S. army in the Southwest came from eastern depots at Fort Leavenworth and St. Louis. Supplies were shipped across the plains on the Santa Fe Trail by contract, and off-loaded and stored at the Fort Union depot facilities. Requisitions from other posts in the Territory were dispatched from Fort Union. Other than a brief period in the mid-1850s, supplies for the southwest were funneled through Fort Union until the railroad arrived 30 years later.
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  • GILA CLIFF DWELLINGS
    GILA CLIFF DWELLINGS
  • GILA CLIFF DWELLINGS
    GILA CLIFF DWELLINGS
    The Gila Cliff Dwellings is the only National Monument with Mogollon sites, with the ruins of interlinked cave dwellings spanning five cliff alcoves about 200 feet up the northwest side of Cliff Dweller Canyon. The site is ¼ mile above the canyon’s confluence with the west fork of the Gila River. The dwellings were built between 1275-1300 AD, consisting of approximately 40 rooms of various sizes, constructed of small, flat stones set in adobe mud mortar. The Gila Cliff Dwellings are at the center of what was Mogollon territory, on the periphery of the Mimbres branch. The Mimbres were a subset of the larger culture that occupied the Mimbres Valley. They are famous for their unique, painted pottery. At the headwaters of the Gila, a critical tributary in an arid region, the Mimbres populations adjoined other branches of the culture. The TJ Ruin is a Classic Mimbres phase pueblo, but the cliff dwellings are Tularosa phase, which is the name ascribed to the prehistoric population that resided near the present town of Reserve. As a result, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument contains archeological resources that may provide clarity about the relationships between different cultural branches.
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  • KASHA-KATUWE TENT ROCKS
    KASHA-KATUWE TENT ROCKS
  • KASHA-KATUWE TENT ROCKS
    KASHA-KATUWE TENT ROCKS
    Tent Rocks National Monument is a very popular hiking destination for residents of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Located on Cochiti Pueblo, Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the Keresan language. For some inexplicable reason they put the sign on the exit rather than on the highway, making it more of a challenge for first time visitors to find it. Watch for the sign to Cochiti Reservoir/Dam. The turn off to Tent Rocks is directly across from the dam. The area’s unique tent rock formations are the result of volcanic rock and ash deposited by a pyroclastic flow from the Jemez Volcanic Field 6 to 7 million years ago. Weathering and erosion of these layers has created canyons and tent rocks. The tent rocks are cones of soft pumice and tuff beneath harder caprocks. They vary in height from a few feet to over 90 feet. Facilities include parking, a self-pay fee station (entry $5 per vehicle in 2016, part of which goes to the Cochiti tribe), rest rooms, and picnic places. Tent Rocks is day use only. There is no campground. Primitive camping is not allowed. However, there is a campground a few miles away at Cochiti Lake. (505) 761-895, EMAIL: jleyba@blm.gov
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  • ORGAN MOUNTAINS-DESERT PEAKS
    ORGAN MOUNTAINS-DESERT PEAKS
  • ORGAN MOUNTAINS-DESERT PEAKS
    ORGAN MOUNTAINS-DESERT PEAKS
    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument was established May 21, 2014 to protect significant prehistoric, historic, geologic, and biologic resources. Surrounding Las Cruces, the 500,000 acre monument includes the Organ Mountains, the Doña Ana Mountains, the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, and the Greater Potrillo Mountains.
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  • PECOS HISTORICAL PARK
    PECOS HISTORICAL PARK
  • PECOS HISTORICAL PARK
    PECOS HISTORICAL PARK
    Pecos' recorded history began sometime around 800 AD when early inhabitants of the Rio Grande Valley moved into the upper Pecos Valley. By 1100 AD, 14 small hamlets were established, extending 40 miles down the river to Anton Chico. What is now known as Pecos Pueblo was one of them. Something happened in the 14th century, because within one generation the inhabitants of the small villages along the Pecos river consolidated at Pecos Pueblo, dramatically increasing the population of the community. By 1450 Pecos Pueblo had become a frontier trading hub and fortress, home to more than 2000 people. With high outside walls, and terraced balconies, Pecos warriors had a clear view in all directions. A perimeter wall may have provided a defensive line or it may have served as a boundary to define village territory to visiting traders camped in the valley below. The inhabitants of this community raised corns, beans and squash, with check dams, canals and caching systems created to impound water and to channel it for irrigation. When Coronado arrived in 1541, he found storerooms piled high with corn, estimated to be a 3-year supply. The surrounding landscape provided a plethora of natural resources and the citizens of Pecos used virtually every plant for something; food, clothing, shelter or medicine. (505) 757-7241
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  • PETROGLYPH PARK
    PETROGLYPH PARK
  • PETROGLYPH PARK
    PETROGLYPH PARK
    Description Content
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  • SALINAS PUEBLO MISSIONS
    SALINAS PUEBLO MISSIONS
  • SALINAS PUEBLO MISSIONS
    SALINAS PUEBLO MISSIONS
    The Salinas ruins encompass three prehistoric pueblos; Quarai, Abo and Gran Quivira. With up to 2000 inhabitants, Gran Quivira was an important trade hub in the region long before the Spanish arrived, positioned between the Anasazi people to the north and the Mogollon people to the south. There is evidence that the area had been settled for as long as 10,000 years (as I mentioned, estimates vary), probably due to the salt lakes nearby. Salt was a precious commodity, necessary for preserving food. These communities served as trade hubs between tribes from the Plains, the Pueblos, the Pacific Northwest, Mexico, etc. The villages were a thriving urban oasis in their heyday. Trade and barter played a critical role in the culture, economy and existence of the settlement. During trade fairs and religious ceremonies, hundreds of Pueblo and Plains Indians would gather in the plaza. There is also evidence that the inhabitants served as middlemen between the pueblos on the Rio Grande to the nomadic tribes of the Plains. Part of the pueblo's year-round population was from the Plains. (505) 847-2585
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  • VALLE CALDERA
    VALLE CALDERA
  • VALLE CALDERA
    VALLE CALDERA
    The 13.7-mile wide caldera, for which the preserve is named, is one of three “supervolcanoes” in the United States. A supervolcano is capable of producing eruptions thousands of times larger than a typical volcano. These eruptions are rare and catastrophic, altering weather patterns for years and raining ash across vast areas. The last time the Valles Caldera erupted it emitted 150 cubic miles of lava, propelling ash as far as Iowa. That was 1.2 million years ago. Hot springs, streams, fumaroles, natural gas seeps and volcanic domes dot the caldera floor, with a variety of igneous stone, from pumice to obsidian, bearing witness to a variety of volcanic activity in the past. The highest point in the caldera is Redondo Peak at 11,253-feet (3,430 m). It is a resurgent lava dome located entirely within the caldera. The preserve encompasses vast grasslands, supporting an abundance of wildlife, including 17 rare species and one of New Mexico’s largest elk herds. (505) 661-3333, #3 for visitor center, EMAIL: info@vallescaldera.gov
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  • WHITE SANDS
    WHITE SANDS
  • WHITE SANDS
    WHITE SANDS
    The Tularosa Basin has been inhabited by humans for over 10,000 years. Long before the gypsum dunes formed, dire wolves, sabre-toothed cats, and herds of mammoths, camels, giant sloths and, later, bison grazed the lush grasslands around Lake Otero, attracting nomadic paleoindian hunters into the basin. Though little is known about the culture and customs of these people, we know they were outstanding stone tool makers and hunters based on spear and projectile points found throughout the basin. They hunted the region with hand-thrown spears for 2000 years. As the most recent ice age came to an end, Lake Otero dried up, the lush grassland died and the Tularosa Basin became increasingly arid. The mammoths, camels and giant sloths died, leaving fossils as evidence of their existence. The herds of bison migrated to more fertile grazing areas, forcing the early inhabitants to adapt or perish. This evolution from grassland to desert is referred to as the Archaic period, spanning 6000 years. There are Archaic sites from the mountain slopes to the basin floor, including in the dunes. (575) 479-6124, EMAIL: whsa_interpretation@nps.gov
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Nomad Notebook

OBSERVATIONS FROM A LOCAL

"Once you have been to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life."

Georgia O'Keeffe

Ghost Towns

CHLORIDE | SILVER BOOM TOWN

One of the many boom towns to pop up in the Black Range in the late 1800s. The potential for wealth was offset by the probability of conflict with the local Apache, led by Victorio and Geronimo.

MOGOLLON

This rowdy mining town in the Gila Wilderness was never that accessible, with ore shipped by stagecoach to Silver City, a dangerous journey plagued by bandits and Apache.

PIE TOWN

This small community on west highway 60 has a lengthy history of being a pit stop for pie. The initial settler intended to prospect, but found his fortune selling pie and supplies.

Places to Go

WORLD HERITAGE SITES

There are 23 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the United States. 3 of them are in New Mexico, more than any other state.

SPACEPORT AMERICA

Though Virgin Galactic hasn't initiated their orbital flights yet, the amazing facility and visitor center is now open to the public. Located near Truth or Consequences, Spaceport America provides insight into the future of space travel.

KASHA-KATUWE | TENT ROCKS

Between Albuquerque and Santa Fe on Cochiti Pueblo, the volcanic tuff and slot canyons of the Jemez volcanic field are a local favorite for hiking and glorious views.

Popular

CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL

For thru-hikers, the Continental Divide Trail is the hardest of the nation's triple crown trails, running from the Mexico/New Mexico border, through the Rocky Mountains to the border of Canada.

HAWIKUH | POINT OF FIRST CONTACT

Coronado's legendary Cibola was actually the Zuni village of Hawikuh. Coronado arrived on their doorstep based on the lies of a Spanish priest, who insisted that the streets were paved with gold.

10 TIPS FOR VISITORS

From the importance of water to the scarcity of gas stations and cell phone signals, this short list of tips from a local might help newcomers to New Mexico stay safe (and alive).

Spanish Missions

Many of the oldest churches in the United States

Nomad Notebook

OBSERVATIONS FROM A LOCAL

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New Mexico Nomad

National Monuments & Parks

Culture, History & Nature

NEW MEXICO MONUMENTS

Ancient Cultures, Conquistadors and Cowboys

Spanish Missions

New Mexico Nomad

The oldest churches in the United States

NEW MEXICO MONUMENTS

18 in total. 9 written up. 9 more to go.

Nomad Notebook

OBSERVATIONS FROM A LOCAL