Part 7:  El Morro and Lava Tubes


Navigation Links
 Trip Home Page     


The Trip

We decided to take a small side trip to check out a National Monument called El Morro.  Without knowing anything about it other than it existed and the location, we set out to see what was there.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

We stayed at the camp site at the Monument and we had a nice view of the sandstone cliffs near El Morro.  The camp fee was a whopping $5 per night, so it was a reasonable deal.

El Morro is actually this structure.  The attraction of the place was still a mystery to me but we would visit the site the following day and determine why folks came here over the years.

The cliffs at El Morrow were massive and the light colored sandstone provided nice contrast to the bright blue sky.  Oddly, the square hole at the left of the photo above is a natural structure.

The reason that people came here over the centuries is that there as a natural catchment at the base of the cliffs.  This catches runoff from the stone mesa above forming a natural, year-around water source.  In fact, this is the only dependable water hole for more than 30 miles in any direction.  The Native Americans discovered this waterhole and the word was passed down through the years.  Many of the groups that passed by left their mark on the stone walls of the cliff in a place now known as "Inscription Rock".  The water is visible as the green pool behind the fence.

The green water does not look very tasty, but I am sure that if you had walked 30 miles to get here, it would look, and taste, wonderful.  Runoff comes down the chute into the pool below.

The upper sections of the cliffs have stains from the rain.

A short distance from the pool, the inscriptions become visible.  The natives left their marks here in their now-famous petroglyph patterns.

Some of the newer inscriptions were not as well preserved as one might expect given their age.  Above, you can see 1864 and 1890.

A few of the folks that passed by the water hole at El Morro left elegant markings.

The top inscription is professional enough that it makes me wonder if the fellow did headstones for a living.

This set of inscriptions dates to the Spaniards expedition in 1709.  The carvings were darkened with pencil by an early curator making them more visible.

This set of glyphs were all native in origin and no date is known.

Some of the native glyphs were carved quite deep into the stone and had well defined edges.

I think that the date is not that significant, but the key issue is the diversity of visitors and the time span.

This fellow was surely popular with the ladies.

Not all the marks were idle scratchings.  This set of marks show that this rock was on a map boundary for Township 9 North (T9N) Range 14 West (R14W) Section 6.  These designations are still used today for legal descriptions of property.

This inscription, in Spanish, was one of the earliest non-native marks and shows 1692.  Assuming that the date is correct, and there is no reason to question it, these marks greatly predate the formation of the United States.

We rounded the end of the point and the number of inscriptions greatly increased.  Also, to make the upper inscriptions, a ladder or scaffold was used.

The markings in the rope carving were not legible, so I assume that they were quite old, likely Spanish.

More Spanish, this one from 1737.

A pecked-style petroglyph.

An inscription stating that the inscriptions were recorded.  I don't know what happened to that record.

A parting shot of El Morro rock.  All of the inscriptions are at the base of the cliff to the point and around the far side.

We left El Morro and headed south on a dirt road to see what was around.  We encountered the sign above, a stern warning about travel in adverse conditions.  The road was not bad, but it was dry.

A few miles in we came upon the so-called Malpais (bad lands) lava flow.  This terrain is nearly impassible even on foot.  There is no hope for crossing the lava with an animal such as a horse or mule as the sharp rocks would shred their hooves.  Early travelers had to divert around the flow to travel west.

Our objective was to see the large lava tubes that were in the area.  This one is called the "Caterpillar collapse".  The tube goes way back into the cliff and the foreground is one of the collapsed sections.

Kathleen is standing at the top center of the cave to give a sense of scale.

The collapsed tube ran for quite a distance and was deep.

Each section of the tube was interesting.  But, to do it right, you would have to get caving gear and rappel into the cave itself.  The Park Service was not issuing caving permits so the whole area was off-limits.

A close-up of the lava surface.  The rocks were very difficult to walk on and did the soles of our boots no good.  Having to cross this flow would have been hell in hot weather as the black rock nicely absorbs heat from the sun.

We finished up at the lava tubes and headed toward Albuquerque to visit our mog friends Brad and Laura.  We did not make it there in one shot, but rather elected to stay the night at an RV park on the west side of the city.  The place was clean and quiet and most importantly, it had electrical service that allowed us to run our a/c at night.  Albuquerque is quite a bit lower than El Morro (5k vs. 8k feet) and therefore much hotter.

Tomorrow, we will get supplies and visit friends.  From there, we will head north to Los Alamos and the Sangre de Christo range.

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

Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2011, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.