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El Morro Park On Your Way to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Festival in New Mexico

Updated on August 1, 2013

El Morrow Park to/from Albuquerque New Mexico

A markerEl Morrow Park New Mexico -
El Morro National Monument, Ramah, NM 87321, USA
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How to get to El Morro

El Morro is 42 miles west of Albuquerque New Mexico on interstate 40.

Take Exit 53 South for 42 miles to El Morro

This is a wonderful side trip either coming or going to the Albuquerque New Mexico Balloon Fiesta. You will also pass the Laguna and Acoma Pueblos. The country is wide and open and quite beautiful too!

El Morro National Monument New Mexico

Pasó por aquí: Passed by Here

El Morro (the headland) is a beautiful geological formation called a cuesta with a dependable source of water in the Northwest area of New Mexico. For centuries the stunning rock formations and the life giving water have attracted native peoples, conquistadors, and wagon trains to the site.

Water is life. El agua es la vida

El Morro is just south of Grants New Mexico. Today it is somewhat off the beaten path thanks to Interstate highways but we made our way there to see the beautiful pool and the exquisite petroglyphs as well as the rock inscriptions made by the Spanish Conquistadors and wagon train settler notes.

Humans all seem to have in interest in immortalizing themselves. The carvings at El Morro certainly prove that we like to 'leave our mark.'

The large pool of water at the base of the rock is solely fed from the water that runs off the promontory seasonally. The pool varies in size and depth because of the water fill. It was surrounded by a sandy beach during the time of the settlers and today it is surrounded by the common cat tail plants and rocky formations.

The rock formation is known as a cuesta which is a long formation that gently slopes upwards and drops off abruptly at one end. The rock is primarily composed of sandstone layers that will naturally degrade with water and wind over time.

The Puebloans, native peoples, occupied the native ruins Atsinna atop El Morro 2,000 years ago. Atsinna means 'place with writings on the rock.' Please see the pictures of some of these writings, petroglyphs left by these and other ancient peoples. They also lived in a pit style of house that used the land to provide both warmth and cool living quarters. The Puebloans also used the cuesta formation to help them build on a high a defensible ground.

The Zuňi people are descendents of these Puebloans. There are many Zuňi still living in New Mexico and this area remains their sacred homeland.

The first historical record of El Morro was in 1583 when Conquistador Antonio de Espejo recorded a stop at 'El Estanque de Penol', the pool at the great rock.

Other Conquistadors specifically Don Juan de Oňate's expedition, also left their mark at El Morro. Oňate inscribed his name at El Morro on April 16, 1605. This is the first known European inscription on the rock. Please see the link to Coronado State Park for more on Oňate and his travels through-out the area.

While the Conquistadores did not find gold they did find an enchanting land where people lived and prospered by understanding the land and the climate.

The Mexican-America War of 1846-48 made the area that is now New Mexico part of the USA. This opened up a southern route through to California. Up to that time the only route was through the Rocky Mountains, a dangerous pass through high mountains that was closed during the long winter months.

The petroglyphs were noted by an Army expedition led by Lt. James H. Simpson and accompanying artist, Richard Kern. Their inscription reads “Lt. J.H. Simpson, USA....R.H. Kern, Artist visited and copied these inscriptions, September 17th 18th 1849.”

The wagon trains of settlers heading to California left a multitude of inscriptions. Interestingly, most of the inscriptions were made by men, although at least one woman and one little girl left their names too! Please see the pictures.

Not to be out-done, when the railroad came through the area during a survey party, they too left their mark. The railroad steamed over the Continental Divide near El Morro. Again, the railroad first came through New Mexico because it was the southern route and more easily traversable by the big iron horse, the train.

We crossed the Continental Divide both coming and going to El Morro. The Continental Divide is the area where the water drainage is divided to water that flows to opposite sides of a continent. So, drainage on one side is to the Atlantic Ocean and on the other side the Pacific Ocean. The Continental Divide extends from the Canadian Rockies down through New Mexico.

In 1906 it became illegal to carve on El Morro. Now the park is protected and hosts hiking trails, a museum, and a nice visitor center. The inscriptions while protected will weather away naturally. The sandstone is easy to inscribe but also wears down with wind and rain.

El Morro is west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. There are many other natural sites to see in the area. You will also find yourself in the Southwest Indian lands. A visit to Gallup New Mexico is a must too.

Please ask questions about your visit to New Mexico. I will give you my best family and friend answers. There is plenty to do and see in and around Albuquerque! (I DO know where to go to buy great local jewelry at non-tourist prices!)


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    • NMLady profile image

      NMLady 6 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Yes, The "we" in the article was my fam. I took the pictures. That is my fam pictured on the trail.