After spending the first few days of our month in Santa Fe settling in, we headed south for Albuquerque. The agenda for our day trip included shopping, sushi and sightseeing under the blue skies of this sprawling city.
Our sightseeing activity for the day was a visit to Petroglyph National Monument. The 7,200-acre area was set aside in 1990 to preserve and protect more than 25,000 rock carvings in a 17-mile cliff of dark basalt boulders. Archeologists believe many of the petroglyphs date back at least 3,000 years.
The monument's Boca Negra Canyon features three developed trails that provide access to some of the most accessible petroglyphs in the park. The trails were short, but steep!
The 200 or so petroglyphs along the Boca Negra Canyon trails represent just 5% of the carvings at the monument. Most of these carvings were created by Pueblo Indians using the Rio Grande style, which was developed about 1300 AD and continued through the 17th century.
A closer look at this "broken" boulder explains how the petroglyphs got their color. As the monster rocks were exposed to water, sun, heat and cold, minerals on the surface oxidized to create a thin dark patina of "desert varnish". When people chipped through the patina, it revealed the lighter colored rock underneath.
Images of the Rio Grande style include human figures, animals, plants and geometric shapes. Nobody knows for sure what the petroglyphs portray. But, it's fun to imagine the centuries-old stories behind these images.
We enjoyed our afternoon of climbing around the "talking rocks" at Petroglyph National Monument. If you find yourself in or around Albuquerque, we highly recommend a visit.