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Petroglyph National Monument Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico - Amazing!

Updated on August 9, 2017
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Petroglyphs found at Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Petroglyphs found at Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico | Source

There is an amazing site called the Petroglyph National Monument found on the west side of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

My girlfriend from Germany who had traveled by car all the way from Houston to the west coast and back with me spending a total of three weeks exploring National Parks and other sites found this Petroglyph National Monument to be of great interest. Of course, I did also. She had already fallen in love with the kokopelli Indian drawings in which she became familiar while at the Grand Canyon.

My husband and I had previously spent a small amount of time visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico in the very beginning of our marriage but had not had the time to venture out west of town to see this historic spot.

Preserving one of the largest rock art sites in the United States and all of North America, there are at least 15,000 petroglyphs located in this area. Some put the number closer to 25,000. In any case, one can see a great abundance of petroglyphs in this location.

The rocks in which the petroglyphs are carved are volcanic in nature and the images date back as early as 1000 B.C. progressing forward to much more recent times. Some of the oldest of the petroglyphs are to be found along the Canyon Trail area.

Petroglyph National Monument
Petroglyph National Monument | Source

This park consists of a total of 7,244 acres and was authorized in June of 1990 in order to help preserve the hundreds of archaeological sites and the 15,000+ petroglyphs.

Amazingly tourists can hike and see the petroglyphs up close and personal. It is pretty much of an honor system to keep ones hands off of the petroglyphs so as to preserve them for future generations of people who might wish to see this living bit of history in its natural environment.

The Petroglyph National Monument is co-managed by the National Park Service as well as the City of Albuquerque.

In addition to the huge number of native Indian drawings left behind people can also appreciate the now dormant volcanic activity that took place centuries ago creating this site.

Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Look in the dark sections to the right to see the petroglyphs
Look in the dark sections to the right to see the petroglyphs | Source

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque's western horizon is dominated by a volcanic basalt escarpment and runs for 17 miles along the city's edge called the West Mesa. This is the location of now dormant volcanoes called fissure volcanoes.

People can see five identifiable volcanic cones and also lava tubes in this area.

My friend and I chose to take the Mesa Point Trail. While it only takes about 20 minutes or so to follow the trail and climb to the top of the lava flow, it is a moderately strenuous trail partly because of the elevation. A person is one mile above sea level at that point some 5,280 feet high.

Make sure to be dressed appropriately with good hiking shoes. People will be climbing up and over many rocks on this trail.

Source

We saw numerous examples among the jumbled piles of lava rock of different petroglyphs as we made our way up and back down the trail.

Some of the rock drawings are rather easy to decipher. These include different animals, insects, hands, animal tracks, crosses, and people in various poses. Star shapes and birds comprised many drawings while others were not as easy to understand.

The meaning of all of these disparate petroglyphs may never be identified but obviously meant something special to the people who lived or traveled through this area along the Rio Grande Valley.

Petroglyphs on the smooth and dark side of this rock.
Petroglyphs on the smooth and dark side of this rock. | Source

Most of the petroglyphs have been identified as having been created from the years 1300 to 1680 AD.

At this time many pueblos were built and inhabited along the Rio Grande and thus, the vast majority of the petroglyphs are called Rio Grande style.

Some of the pottery that also dates back to those periods have similar drawings as do the murals on walls that have also been found.

The volcanic rocks provided an easy palate in which to make and display their drawings.

My friend and I have never personally seen so many petroglyphs in such a limited area that can be so easily viewed. This Petroglyph National Monument was not on our scheduled itinerary to see, but when traveling by car across the country many such small "discoveries" can be accommodated if one has a little extra time.

If I ever go back to Albuquerque I would like to spend more time taking the other trails in order to see even more of this amazing area.

Who created Petroglyphs and What was the Meaning?

Spanish Conquest of This Area and the Indians

Although native Indians were the first inhabitants, in the year 1540 changes started occurring when the Spaniards started exploring this part of the country.

The first contact was made by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.

In 1598 colonists led by Juan de Onate began to establish settlements along the Rio Grande and the Indians began to be impacted. Their numbers were significantly reduced.

By 1680 the repressed Indians joined in revolt and drove the Spanish settlers back to El Paso and reclaimed their land until 1692 when once again the colonists reclaimed the area as their own.

A grant establishing the Town of Atrisco was granted in 1692 and that locale is now where the volcanic escarpment and mesa top exist today.

Some of those sheep shepherds from the town of Atrisco undoubtedly carved some of the brands as well as other drawings found in the petroglyphs combining them with the earlier Indian rock art.

Indian descendants dating back to pre-spanish conquest of this part of Albuquerque, New Mexico still live in the Pueblos of Sandia and Isleta today.

2 parrots or macaws. Parrots were a trade item from Mexico back in those days.
2 parrots or macaws. Parrots were a trade item from Mexico back in those days. | Source

Meaning of Some of the Petroglyphs

A brochure that was acquired at the Petrified National Monument described one of the pictures with the bird drawings on it. It stated the following:

"Two parrots or macaws, identifiable by the long-plumed tails. The smaller macaw appears to be in a box or cage. Parrots are not native to the Southwest. Their natural habitat is in Mexico. Parrots were a major trade item from Mexico in prehistoric times and are shown prominently in kiva mural paintings made during the same time period ( Circa AD 1300 to 1600's)."

Uplifted arms may have signified praying.
Uplifted arms may have signified praying. | Source

The same brochure described upraised arms as being significant of a person saying prayers which is also depicted in some of the petroglyphs.

My friend and I spent a little time in Old Town Albuquerque after seeing some of the amazing petroglyphs in the Petroglyph National Monument before moving on to the next portion of our trip which would take us back to Texas. The address: 6001 Unser Blvd., NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87120. Telephone #: (505) 899-0205 ext. 331.

Don't miss seeing the Petroglyph National Monument if you find yourself anywhere near Albuquerque, New Mexico! You will see countless amazing rock drawings within touchable distance (but don't touch!). Remember to bring your camera!

TERRIFIC Video of this Area including History and Photos

Have you seen petroglyphs here or elsewhere?

See results
A markerPetroglyph National Monument -
Petroglyph National Monument, 4735 Unser Blvd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120, USA
get directions

© 2009 Peggy Woods

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    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello alocsin,

      If you ever return to the Albuquerque area and have a bit of time, perhaps next time you can work in a visit to the Petroglyph National Monument park west of town. Glad you enjoyed learning about it and thanks for your comment and votes.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      As usual, great photos. I'm sorry I missed this when I was in N.M., because this ancient art forms really interest me. Voting this Up and Beautiful.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi doodlebugs,

      Like you said...the Petroglyph National Monument is an amazing place. Perhaps someday I will be fortunate enough to see more of it as you and your wife also wish to do. Here's hoping! Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi NMLady,

      Thanks for the vote up and comment on this Petroglyph National Monument hub.

    • doodlebugs profile image

      doodlebugs 5 years ago from Southwest

      My wife and I visited the Petroglyph National Monument last year. What an amazing place. Unfortunately we missed an extra tour that would have taken us to over 1000 other petroglyphs, but hope to make it back there someday.

    • NMLady profile image

      NMLady 5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Well, you had me the minute I saw it was ABQ!

      voted up!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Lucky Cats,

      This Petroglyph National Monument was not on our original itinerary but when we saw it not that far away from where we were traveling, we decided to stop and take a look. So glad that we did. If we had more time, it would have been fun to take some of the longer trails. Glad that you enjoyed this and thanks for the votes and comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi dallas93444,

      This Petroglyph National Monument lets one view so many of these Indian etchings in one place and up so close. It is just amazing. I doubt that the spray painted graffiti will ever last this long. But you are correct...people will probably be studying the graffiti years from now just as they do the petroglyphs. Thanks for your comment.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Hi Peggy! You've given us a wonderful view and history of this fabulous park. I have always loved New Mexico and find myself traveling through the state back and forth many times these days. We always drive via 40 to avoid going through Colorado on 70. I have to admit I was unaware of the Petroglyph National Monument Park in Albuquerque. So incredibly rich with history and geographic magisty as well as the awe inspiring beauty of this desert area which is astounding. I hope to be able to take the time to visit in the near future. You do us such service with your valuable and educational hubs about so many of the amazing places you've visited and shared with your readers. I must find the time to read each and every one of your hubs, Peggy...Thank you.

      All ups for this one (except funny!)

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Another outstanding article. Interesting today's grafiti may be tomorrows petroglyph! Flag up!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello marshacanada,

      Hope that you do get to visit the Petroglyph National Monument Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico and get to see these petroglyphs for yourself. It is amazing to me that one is allowed to wander in and among them and be so close to them as we got to do. As to our modern day artwork not lasting that long...in many cases that is probably a good thing. Haha! Some of course is wonderful.

    • marshacanada profile image

      marshacanada 6 years ago from Vancouver BC

      Thanks Peggy W. I hope to go to this monument and see the petroglyphs. I have see petroglyphs in many places and it always gives me a thril to imagine a person so many years ago chipping away to make the picture. Our art work and messages wont last that long.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Franck,

      Thanks for viewing this hub about the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

    • profile image

      Franck 6 years ago

      www.limo505

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello sandwichmom! Nice to meet you!

      Happy that this hub about the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico interested you. Hope that you and your daughter have a wonderful trip during the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanks for the comment.

    • sandwichmom profile image

      sandwichmom 7 years ago from Arkansas

      Thanks for this info- my daughter and I ahve been tlaking about heading out that way over Thanksgiving break.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Melody,

      I hope your wishes come true and that you get to visit the Petroglyph National Monument and more in New Mexico someday. Actually that entire part of the country has so much to offer by way of amazing sight-seeing opportunities. Thanks for the comment.

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 7 years ago from Philippines

      Would like to visit it given the chance. Nice hub.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello sarovai,

      Yes, I liked the petroglyphs, the petrified forest, etc., and enjoy all of nature. All the national parks in Utah have distinctive rock formations and each are different in one way or another. Guess I am drawn towards appreciating rocks.....and all of nature for that matter. Thanks for commenting.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello frogyfish,

      My husband and I did take the ride up to Sandia Peak. Fantastic scenery but I must admit, I was a bit white knuckled on that ride. At the time I believe it was the longest cable ride in the world. May still be?

      The Petroglyph National Monument also did not exist when we were there taking the cable ride. Obviously the petroglyphs were there...just not the park.

      Albuquerque is a great place. Do you still go back there and visit? Have you now seen the park?

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi James,

      Yes, personal representation of art has a long history and these petroglyphs show some of that. I also love art of all types. Thanks for the comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello qlcoach,

      Fortunate you...getting to live in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a number of years. It is a great place that I have only gotten to visit briefly a couple of times. Thanks for the comment. Will check out your cruise hub.

    • sarovai profile image

      sarovai 7 years ago

      I like your interest in petrified forest and petroglyphs, all one or other way related to rock. thank u.

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 7 years ago from Central United States of America

      Albuquerque is my birthplace/hometown, and this hub was very interesting - I knew as a chld there were Indian writings in the lava beds, but never visited - and that was looong before the Park existed. My grandparents lived on the West Mesa and I loved visiting them, looking over the city, the Sandia peaks. If you ever get there, take the trip up to Sandia peak - it's beautifully appealing! Thank you so much Peggy W for this great hub!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

      So, people have been artists since time immemorial. That is interesting, isn't it. I love all kinds of art. These petroglyphs are fascinating. Thanks for the trip.

    • qlcoach profile image

      Gary Eby 7 years ago from Cave Junction, Oregon

      Thank you for this wonderful HUB. I lived in Albuquerque NM for nines years while I worked as social worker at the VA. You brought back many found memories and the video was excellent. For fun, hope you will visit my new HUB about cruising....Gary.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Ethel,

      The American Southwest is filled to the brim with interesting places and the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico is just the "tip of the iceberg" so-to-speak. Thanks for your comment.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      You do visit some interesting and different places Peggy.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi jill of alltrades,

      That is a very nice compliment. Hope you get to viewing the Petroglyph National Monument for yourself someday. Thanks!

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Wow, what an interesting and amazing place!

      I like the way you write. You always make me want to visit every time you share something like this.

      Thank you very much!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello loveroflife,

      You are most welcome. The Petroglyph National Monument is just one of so many great sites in the American Southwest...specifically, in this case, Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you have not yet visited here, I would greatly encourage it. Thanks for reading and leaving the first comment.

    • profile image

      loveroflife 7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this amazing history from the American Southwest.