The post on Northern New Mexico petroglyph sites was first published in October 2012. It was updated 7/5/2016.
Think graffiti is a 20th century phenomena? Native Americans have been leaving messages on rocks, via petroglyphs, for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Petroglyphs are carvings on rocks or rock walls. Each symbol has a meaning and the native peoples knew what they were and could communicate through these carvings. Steve and I are fascinated by them. Here are some of the Northern New Mexico petroglyph sites we’ve visited on our travels around the area.
Petroglyph National Monument
Petroglyph National Monument, on the northwest side of Albuquerque, offers two sites to view the ancient messages left by both native peoples and the Spanish who arrived in the late 1600s. There are over 600 to be found here. The 100 petroglyphs in the developed Boca Negra Canyon are easily accessed though some climbing is required. If you want to explore a less developed area, take the 2.2 mile loop hike on the sandy trail into Rinconada Canyon There are an additional 500 petroglyphs here. There is an admission charge.
Chaco Culture National Historic Park is another site with petroglyphs. Chaco Canyon was a major center from around the mid-800s A.D to the late 1100s. By 1050 A.D. it has become the major spiritual and economic center for the San Juan Basin. While it still puzzles archeologist and anthropologists a bit as to why, it is known that people came here and to what they call the “outlier” communities in droves. It was an advanced civilization with building techniques that were quite sophisticated for the time. It’s easy to view petroglyphs carved into the cliff face on the upper path between Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl. Just look up. There is an admission charge.
Taos has some hidden treasures. A local friend took us to see glyphs on a cliff-face outside Ranchos de Taos. They’re a bit hard to find, but worth the effort or call us and we’ll arrange a guide for you.
La Bajada Mesa
There are local legends about La Bajada Mesa, southwest of Santa Fe. It was famous in the early auto days when gas was gravity fed to the engine. Cars had to go up the steep hill backwards. Locals made money driving tourists’ vehicles up this treacherous incline. Our friends Sue and Georges of Santa Fe Walkabouts took us for a hike out on La Bajada, one day. We climbed down from the mesa to the Rio Grande River and discovered signs of an old pueblo. On the way, we saw these petroglyphs.
Petroglyph Hill is in the Galisteo Basin southeast of Santa Fe. The land, formerly part of the Thornton Ranch, belongs to Santa Fe County; access is limited. The county periodically offer tours of the area. Group sizes are limited so sign up early. We were on a waiting list for a while, but it was worth it. There are over 1,900 petroglyphs dating from 1325 to 1600 A.D. at the site. You will also find message left by sheepherders in the 19th century here. There are no tours offered in 2016. The Sana Fe County Land Use Office, who oversees the site is currently reevaluating tours as there has been erosion damage over the last few years. They hope to offer tours next year. For information and to get on their contact list, call Maria Lohmann at (505) 995-2774. She’ll notify you when they begin to offer the tours again.
While many Northern New Mexico petroglyph sites are on private land, there are sites open to the public around the state. In the Santa Fe area petroglyphs can be found at Bandelier National Monument, at its sister site, Tsankawi and at La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site southwest of town. Further afield visit Three Rivers near Tularosa in the southern part of the state.
If you want a guided visit to Northern New Mexico petroglyph sites or archeological sites, contact The Santa Fe Traveler. We can arrange one for you.
Do you have favorite Northern New Mexico petroglyph sites?