Blackwater Draw Archeological Site: Clovis People

Written by on August 5, 2017 in NM History & Heritage - Comments Off on Blackwater Draw Archeological Site: Clovis People

Near Clovis, New Mexico, is the archeological site of Blackwater Draw. Nearly 13,000 years ago, large glaciers covered the North American continent including a large portion of the Rocky Mountains. The weather conditions during this era were cool and dry in the Southwest, but perfect for huge stands of grass to thrive. Such huge stands of fodder were able to sustain equally huge browsers and grazers — like mammoth, camels, horses and bison. Human adapted to changing conditions by changing their small hunter/gatherer societies into large game hunters.


Nearly 11,000 years ago, a small spring-fed lake near what is now Clovis, New Mexico, drew a variety of big grazers and browsers to the area. The variety of game also drew some of the earliest human inhabitants in North America to the region. Today, these hunter/gatherers are known today as the Clovis People named after the flint spear heads first found in the area in 1929. The Clovis, widely believed to have been mammoth hunters, likely arrived via the Bering land bridge that once linked Asia and Alaska. They then spread rapidly southward into the Southwest.

The Blackwater Draw archeological site is rather unique in that it seems to have been occupied by a series of cultures over the years, one right after the other. Likely the spring fed lake continually drew both a variety of animals and people to this water source. Layer upon layer of human habitation has allowed archeologist to track human development as it changed to fit the shifting climate conditions and resources. The site has revealed everything from mammoth bones to flint spear points (some embedded in mammoth bones) tools and much more.

Blackwater Draw Site

Visiting the site is an interesting experience. The site, covered by 11,000 years of sand and soil, now lies 15 feet below the surface. You enter the site from the east down along a self-guided path into the depths of the former quarry operations. A large windowed shed protects the past and current excavations; and a smaller shed protects a Clovis-period hand-dug well, one of the earliest water control systems in the New World; and one of at least twenty total wells on site.

Blackwater Locality No. 1 is about eight miles north of Portales. It is on Highway 467, about five miles north of Highway 70 or 15 miles south of U.S. Highway 84/60. It is one mile north of the Oasis State Park highway exit. Special guided tours can be arranged in advance by calling 575.356.5235. Admission is $3 for adults, $1 for children. The sites is open every day from Memorial  Day to Labor Day and Saturdays and Sundays the rest of the year from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Blackwater Draw Museum

In addition, visitors to the area will want to stop by the Blackwater Draw Museum. It displays thousands of items taken from the site. A souvenir shop offers related books and gifts. Restrooms are available. Picnic and camping facilities are available nearby, and motels and restaurants are available in Portales. The museum is handicapped accessible. There is a “touch and feel” table for children at the museum.

The Blackwater Draw Museum is located at 42987 Highway 70, about 7 miles northeast of Portales and 8 miles south of Clovis, New Mexico. It is adjacent to a large rest stop, and is just south of the Eastern New Mexico University football stadium. Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for children. Hours of operation — everyday during the summer 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. During the winter months, the museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. –  5 p.m. and Sundays Noon to 5 p.m.

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