City of Rocks

Boulders crafted by nature 35 million years ago...

There are only six places in the world with rock formations like these boulders and one is in New Mexico. Created by a huge explosion named after what it formed, the Kneeling Nun monolith, the volcanic ash was roughcast by wind, water and time leaving these stone monuments to sit in a grassland plain. They rise up in chimera as if ancient secrets are hidden in recesses with passages that wind around to wander and wonder if they hold some answer to an unknown question.

Over centuries people have sought shelter and protection among these geologic pinnacles from weather and animals of prey. Among them were the Mimbres Indians who left behind arrowheads, pottery shards and
mortars ground into the stone formations by pestling seeds into flour. The mortars are called "Indian Wells" since water collects in them after it rains. Apaches later came to the area. During the 1500s Spanish conquistadors passing by left carved crosses in the lava and soon after Spaniard settlers arrived. In the early 19th century mining began in nearby Santa Rita.

The area is rich in flora and fauna occupied by eagles and hawks, horned owls, roadrunners and cactus wrens. Squirrels, jackrabbits, packrats, mule deer, javelinas and coyotes call the area home where many types of snakes are also found alongside a wide variety of lizards. Yucca and ocotillo, barrel and hedgehog cacti, century plants and desert willow surround the rocks among the grama grass. Within the passageways of the rocks emory and gray oaks grow. A trail goes to a desert botanical garden.

The City of Rocks has been a New Mexico State Park since 1952. Located in the Mimbres Valley near Bayard. It is in the far reaches of the Chihuahuan desert at an elevation of 5200 feet with mild winters and warm
summers. The unique geography makes for imaginative exploration of the volcanic ash formations thrusting up into the air and trailing the surrounding area. Clear night sky star gazing chances an "ah ha!" moment on ancient pathways.


  1. This is just so cool, JR...I'm trying to think of an analogy that comes close to explaining my wonder and all I have is this: it's like you were making your way through the Amazon jungle and suddenly stumbled upon the spare set of keys for every Dodge Dart ever made. It seems no less out of place than that, nor any more likely.

    Looking at the sepia(?)-toned picture on its own, the scene looks like a bunch of people awaiting your arrival. It's overpowering and a little scary in its way, and I'd guess I'm not the first person who ever felt that way about it. I know pitifully little about Indian legends and lore but I would be stunned if there weren't many tales based on these rocks. I also wonder how many languages no one knows anymore had a word to denote this place geographically; it would certainly have been a waypoint long before the time of maps. Or maybe I just think too much. Either way, it's extremely cool to see and read about and I thank you for posting it, sir!

  2. Thanks Mike. It was so cool cresting over a hill and then looking down on the scene. We had to stop just to take it in before we proceeded. It was as if not just people but spirits of the past were waiting for our arrival.

    You hit the nail on the head about wondering how many languages, cultures, peoples sought shelter and used it as a marker as a waypoint. The surrounding area is a sight to behold. In about an hour another photo from another perspective will post.

    Thanks for visiting and the comment!