Part 11: White Sands & Three Rivers Petroglyphs


Navigation Links


The Trip

After an uneventful night at an RV park in Mesilla, NM, we headed north and east toward White Sands Missile Range, White Sands and the Lincoln National Forest beyond. The photos below are what we saw.

To the west of the White Sands Missile Range lies the rugged Organ Mountains.

Photography at the missile range was restricted to park and the visitor center. Above is a Pershing missile on the launch platform. This is a tactical, nuclear-capable medium range missile that saw duty during the last stages of the Cold War.

A Patriot missile. On the side of the launcher was the slogan "If it flies, it dies" attesting to the Patriot's ability to engage both incoming missiles and aircraft.

A replica of the first atomic bomb that was tested at Trinity Site at the north end of the range.

There were plenty of missiles on display in the park.

This is some odd counter-rotating blade helicopter unmanned test bed.

On exit from the park, we spot tend this barrel cactus with blooms. The insects were busy working the nectar.

We had to go right by White Sands NP, so we had to stop for a photo shoot. The white gypsum sands provided tons of glare and required dark glasses. Even with the glasses, squinting was the order of the day. I was amazed that any plants could live in this environment but the yucca seem to be doing fine.

Kathleen captures some video as the thunderheads build over the Sierra Blanca range, our destination for the evening.

Nature never ceases to amaze me. This lizard has adapted to have coloring that matches the white sands. I have to expect that the range of this species is limited to the gypsum dunes, but did not check with the rangers.

The access road to the gypsum dunes was passable by any vehicle so there were tons of minivans packed with families. At one of the areas, we came upon this group that brought snow discs so the kids could slide down the dunes.

The NPS brought in these picnic tables with shade on concrete pads and had them in the picnic areas. From White Sands, we headed north toward the Three Rivers Petroglyph site.

On our hike to the petroglyph site, we spotted this rabbit. He was fully consumed in scratching at the tumor on his eye and did not notice our approach. It was driving him crazy. He would walk a few steps and then return to scratching. He was clearly blind in his left eye and because of that, soon to be coyote food.

The Three Rivers site was claimed to have 20,000 petroglyphs in a very small area. Most were small and of poor quality, but I have shot the best ones and presented them below. In the photo above, there is a man with horns and some kind of deer. The man-with-horns icon is frequent throughout the southwest and I have seen similar icons as far west as Petroglyph Canyon in the China Lake Weapons range in the southern Sierra Nevada.

A fish perhaps.

Your guess is as good as mine.

Many interesting critters.

A bird perhaps.

A deer or possibly an antelope.

Possibly a horny toad.

A shamanistic figure.

A very nice desert sheep.

The circle with a cross and dots is seen throughout the west. The bigger character could be the aliens that landed near Roswell, to the east of our position. Not.

Another shaman with odd supporting symbols.

A sheep head perhaps.

Another nice example of the circle-cross icon.

Either this is a man with a tail or somebody very popular with the ladies.

The scratchings near the top appear to be more recent than the the others and were likely done with a metal tool. The cross is out of context.

Nice geometric patterns.

This ball and stick icon is also visible throughout the west.

Another nice geometric pattern. Thunderclouds build over Oscura Mountain to the west. They would visit us later in the afternoon.

No clue on this one. Experts claim that these petroglyphs have religious meaning. Perhaps that is so, but my opinion is that they were graffiti, same as today.

A bear or perhaps a bear-man icon.

More nice geometric patterns.

A very busy design.

An unwelcome visitor. This is a black-tailed rattlesnake and I give them wide berth. From the petroglyph site, we headed up the canyon to Three Rivers campground in the national forest.

As we went up the canyon, we got excellent views of the gypsum sand dunes far to the west of our position.

The plentiful rain had all the bushes in full bloom. I have never seen anything like this. The bush had leaves like a mesquite, but clearly not a mesquite bush.

Some of the road-side flowers were very colorful.

Our campsite had a commanding view of the valley to the west.

I heard this ticking sound and went outside to investigate. What I found was a hummingbird attempting to get nectar from one of my yellow limit lights on the camper. He had mistaken the amber color of the plastic for a big flower. It took him quite awhile to figure it out and give up.

It was a good day. We also stopped at the IMAX theater in Alamogordo, but was disappointed in their offering. We expected a film on space history, but got an animation instead. And, oddly enough, they did not list the offering on the marquis. Our fault for not inquiring. We also visited the Space History Museum; it was OK, only OK. Three Rivers was quite nice and the access was easy. Three Rivers Camp, in the Lincoln National Forest was also easy access and reasonably nice accommodations. It was a small site with perhaps 8 camps there and our camp had the best view of the valley below. Tomorrow, we will head into the Sierra Blanca range to Alto and find a spot in the trees.

Navigation Links
Previous Adventure
Top of this Page
  Next Adventure
Trip Home Page  
Bill Caid's Home Page

Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2008, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.