Long before Albuquerque spread its lights across the Rio Grande Valley, prehistoric people lived here. Today we find their tools, or the scattered ruins of their houses, and sometimes places where they carved petroglyphs into the rocks. The petroglyphs allow us to get close to those distant people. Sometimes the rock art seems like voices whispering to us from centuries ago.
The black, volcanic cliffs that stand like a wall on Albuquerque’s West Side became a vast outdoor art gallery, or perhaps a holy place. Sometimes for religon, sometimes for a record, the people chipped their ideas and visions into the volcanic boulders. A thousand years or more of a culture's art is on that escarpment, still precious to today's Pueblo Indians, descendants of those who carved into the rocks.
In the 1500s Spaniards came into the Rio Grande Valley, encountering the Pueblo Indians who still carved on the cliffs as had their ancestors. Eventually Spanish culture filled the valley walls.
Today those cliffs look down on a city that almost fills the valley, hosting visitors from around the nation and world. But the rocks remember.
The people of Albuquerque care about the open spaces and wide vistas of the city's West Mesa. When vandals destroyed petroglyphs and development threatened the escarpment itself, citizens worked to establish Indian Petroglyph State Park, Volcano City Park, and finally, Petroglyph National Monument. The new monument, created in June of 1990, includes the five extinct volcanoes along Albuquerque's western horizon and the entire 7-mile-long dark cliff below, the great rock art gallery.
Starting a new park is not easy, especially at the edge of a growing city. In most national parks, the federal government pays the bills. But at Petroglyph National Monument, the State of New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque are also buying land. Rangers from the National Park Service and Albuquerque's Open Space Division will work side by side to protect the park and help visitors, once the land is purchased.
The fight to save the petroglyphs continues. If Albuquerque overflows onto the West Mesa, New Mexico's newest national park will find itself surrounded by New Mexico's largest city. Can the petroglyphs, and the landscape in which they were created, survive this change?
The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.
A geology photo album has not been prepared for this park.For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.
Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.
Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout
The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!
Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.
For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.
The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.
A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.
NPS Geology and Soils PartnersAssociation of American State Geologists
Geological Society of America
Natural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
U.S. Geological Survey
General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.