North of Tularosa, as the crow flies…
Is a hiking trail that is not to be missed!
The Three Rivers Petroglyphs site gives visitors direct access to petroglyphs and the sheer numbers and of petroglyphs here make it one of the largest and most interesting petroglyph sites in the desert southwest.
The trail, a one-mile loop, is somewhat rocky and rugged but with careful attention to footfalls. It should be accessible to hikers and walkers of all skill levels.
More than 21,000 glyphs of birds, humans, animals, fish, insects and plants, as well as numerous geometric and abstract designs are spread out over 50 acres of New Mexico’s northern Chihuahuan Desert. The petroglyphs seem to concentrate along a basalt ridge rising from the upper Tularosa Basin at the base of the Sacramento Mountains.
Petroglyphs at Three Rivers were created by the Mogollon people between about 900 and 1400 AD. A short trail 200 yards south of the petroglyphs leads to the remains of the village, whose inhabitants created the petroglyphs. Using stone tools, they carved away bits of the boulders to create thousands of images that still survive today.
The Mogollon were one of the three major ancestral cultures that dominated the southwest of what’s now the United States. Agricultural, prehistoric inhabitants of southwest New Mexico and southeast Arizona, their culture flourished between 200 and 1450 CE, and they’re the presumed ancestors of the Zuni and Hopi tribes.
Their presence still lingers in these lands where more than 21,000 petroglyphs are stamped into the rock face; here, depictions of humans, wildlife, plants, and geometric and abstract figures are forever etched in stone.
Those who lived in the mountains are referred to by archeologists as the Mimbres Mogollon while desert dwellers such as these who lived along the banks of Three Rivers Creek are called the Jornada Mogollon.
The site, which was partially excavated in 1976, was occupied for about 400 years. The foundations of prehistoric buildings can be seen here in addition to petroglyphs. A short trail from the picnic area leads to the partially excavated remains of a Mogollon village, whose inhabitants were likely the artists responsible for the rock art.
The one-mile, round-trip trail along the ridge winds through the thousands of petroglyphs created over a period of a few hundred years.
Trail markers, which correspond to the trail guide provided upon admission, indicate petroglyphs of particular interest along this relatively easy to traverse, route.
To reach the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, take US 54 north from Tularosa for 17 miles. Turn right on Three Rivers Road (Otero County Road B30) and drive about 5.2 miles. The petroglyph site is on the left. Admission for the day is $5 per vehicle. Camping sites and RV hookups are available.
This archaeological site is often sadly overlooked and should really be included when visiting White Sands National Monument, which is less than one hour to the south!
For more information on Three Rivers, please visit the site linked below.
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