El Morro National Monument

Written by on January 10, 2016 in NM History & Heritage - Comments Off on El Morro National Monument

Watering Hole
In Spanish, it is called El Morro — the headland — because that is what is resembles, a headland rising above the desert rather than the ocean waves. In English, it is referred to as “inscription rock” because travelers throughout time have stopped to leave their mark on the stone. In either case, El Morro National Monument was an important stopping point for travelers of the Old West, thanks to the quiet and ever-reliable pool of water that sits at the base of the towering stone cliffs in northern New Mexico.

In the 1200s, the Zuni Indians built a huge pueblo atop the high bluff. When they came down to the pool, they carved the stone and left petroglyphs, “rock pictures” behind. Then came the Spanish explorers who carved their names and the inscription “paso por aqui,” which means passed by here. Next, came the gold miners and settlers of the American West on their way to California, who also carved their names into the soft sandstone. There are more than 2,000 signatures carved into the wall dating back more than 800 years.

However, because the sandstone is so soft, the inscriptions are beginning to disappear, although the National Park Service has begun a program to preserve these inscriptions. The following treatments have been developed through testing and trial applications, and may be implemented by conservators when the loss of an inscription is imminent:

  • use of cement–based grouts to fill voids (keeping water out) and to reattach fragments
  • consolidation of loose rock with ethyl silicate and epoxide around eroded inscriptions
  • securing inscription panels with drilled in pins
  • treatment with calcium hypochloride (swimming pool bleach) to stop the growth of lichens

A half-mile trail leads past the reliable watering hole and the signature wall. A two-mile extension of the trail will take you to the top of the bluff for amazing panoramic views as well as a closer look at the Zuni pueblo dwelling.

There are camping spaces at El Morro National Monument, although no water is available there during the winter months. The nearby towns of Grants and Gallup, New Mexico offer full services, including lodging, dining, shopping and more.

El Morro National Monument
HC 61 Box 43
Ramah, NM 87321
Visitor Center: 505-783-4226
Monument Headquarters: 505-285-4641

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