New Mexico is the Volcano State. It has the most diverse and largest number of volcanoes in North America. The greatest concentration of craters created by volcanic stream explosions occurred in New Mexico. The Valles Caldera (caldera is Spanish for “cauldron”), located 58 miles from Santa Fe, is one of the largest super volcanoes in the world and one of three in the United States. The other two are Yellowstone in Wyoming and Long Valley in California.
A Volcano Comes Alive
In 1947 a group of pranksters ignited a pile of old tires behind an extinct volcano cone on Albuquerque’s West Mesa. Their plan of simulating a volcanic eruption worked to their surprise in a positive way. The stunt proved to be effective in bringing attention to the plight of the volcano. Real estate developers wanted to create five-acre lots in the vicinity.
Save the Volcanoes
The rapid growth in the area led a group of concerned citizens to start the campaign, “Save the Volcanoes.” Even with the group’s efforts, Albuquerque’s growth and urban sprawl continued. The new developments encroached upon a unique prehistoric repository. There are more than 25,000 ancient petroglyphs, dating back over 700 years inscribed in the black basalt rock. This repository has made Albuquerque famous for having the greatest concentration of etched-in-stone images in the world.
Friends of the Petroglyphs
The plight of the petroglyphs finally found a permanent path to preservation. In 1986 an activist named Ike Eastvold formed an organization called Friends of the Petroglyphs. The group’s efforts led to the inclusion of the petroglyphs as part of the U.S. National Park System. The Friends of the Petroglyphs gained public support and the backing of New Mexico’s congressional delegation. The Petroglyph National Monument was officially established in 1990. The protected area includes 17 miles along the West Mesa.