When you are traveling in the desert southwest, you quickly realize how rare it is to find reliable sources of water. We talked about that when we wrote about Pipe Springs National Monument in Arizona. Another one of these desert oases is found at El Morro National Monument in New Mexico.
El Morro was a popular stopover for hundreds of years, playing host to missionaries, indians, soldiers and travelers. They knew they could find water to drink and a place to water their horses.
Today you can see a record of these explorers on “Inscription Rock” at El Morro National Monument. It is like historical “graffiti” – campers there would while away the hours carving their names, messages and stories on the rock wall. There are over 2000 inscriptions and petroglyphs on the rock. The oldest inscription is from 1605.
About El Morro National Monument
Established as a national monument in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, this park preserves not only the pond and inscription rock, but also ruins of native american pueblos.
There are two nice trails here. Inscription Loop trail is a 1/2 mile paved walkway from the visitor center to the pool and sandstone bluff where you can see all the inscriptions.
From there, you can take Headland Loop trail and climb about 250 feet up to the top of the promontory and the pueblos.
You can see why they made their home there; not only was there a reliable water source, they could see for miles in any direction. They believe that this pueblo housed some 600 ancients between 1275 and 1350 AD.
What we thought was really neat was the box canyon. You hear about these; about how indians would heard bison or game into a canyon and then seal off the entrance. Here you can look down into that canyon and clearly see how it worked.
Getting to El Morro National Monument
When you think of New Mexico National Park Units, most folks think of the better known places like White Sands National Monument and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. El Morro is a lesser-visited place, but not that far away and well worth the detour off the I40.
When you are there, be sure to the neighboring national park unit El Malpais National Monument.
Coming from the east, it is just 45 minutes from Grants on Highway 53, or if you are coming from the west, it is just 1 hour southeast of Gallup. El Morro National Monument remains a nice stop over for today’s travelers, just don’t leave your name on the rock!
Need Help Planning Your Visits?
If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.