Geology
Rocks and minerals can be found in your own backyard. Explore the world around you and learn about the history of the formation of the Earth by studying geology. We've gathered resources to make it fun and interesting.
Things to See & Do in New Mexico
White Sands National Monument
At the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert lies a mountain ringed valley called the Tularosa Basin. Rising from the heart of this basin is one of the world's great natural wonders - the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Here, great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert and have created the world's largest gypsum dune field. The brilliant white dunes are ever changing: growing, cresting, then slumping, but always advancing. Slowly but relentlessly the sand, driven by strong southwest winds, covers everything in its path. Within the extremely harsh environment of the dune field, even plants and animals adapted to desert conditions struggle to survive. Only a few species of plants grow rapidly enough to survive burial by moving dunes, but several types of small animals have evolved a white coloration that camouflages them in the gypsum sand. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this gypsum dune field, along with the plants and animals that have successfully adapted to this constantly changing environment.
El Malpais National Monument
El Malpais National Monument and Conservation Area near Grants, New Mexico, preserves 114,277 acres of which 109,260 acres are federal and 5,017 acres are private. El Malpais means "the badlands" but contrary to its name this unique area holds many surprises, many of which researchers are now unraveling. Volcanic features such as lava flows, cinder cones, pressure ridges and complex lava tube systems dominate the landscape. Sandstone bluffs and mesas border the eastern side, providing access to vast wilderness. For more than 10,000 years people have interacted with the El Malpais landscape. Historic and archeological sites provide reminders of past times. More than mere artifacts, these cultural resources are kept alive by the spiritual and physical presence of contemporary Indian groups, including the Puebloan peoples of Acoma, Laguna,and Zuni, and the Ramah Navajo. These tribes continue their ancestral uses of El Malpais including gathering herbs and medicines, paying respect, and renewing ties.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Established to preserve Carlsbad Cavern and numerous other caves within a Permian-age fossil reef, the park contains more than 100 known caves, including Lechuguilla Cave—the nation's deepest limestone cave at 1,567 feet (478m) and third longest. Carlsbad Cavern, with one of the world's largest underground chambers and countless formations, is highly accessible, with a variety of tours offered year-round.
Capulin Volcano National Monument
Mammoths, giant bison, and short-faced bears were witness to the first tremblings of the earth and firework-like explosions of molten rock thousands of feet into the air. Approximately 60,000 years ago, the rain of cooling cinders and four lava flows formed Capulin Volcano, a nearly perfectly-shaped cinder cone, rising more than 1000 feet above the surrounding landscape. Although long extinct, Capulin Volcano is dramatic evidence of the volcanic processes that shaped northeastern New Mexico. Today the pine forested volcano provide habitat for mule deer, wild turkey, and black bear. A 2-mile road spiraling to the top of the volcano and paved trails into the crater and around its rim provide access to explore the volcano and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding volcanic landscape.
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