New Mexico November 28, 2016
This One Spot In New Mexico Has Been Graffitied For Centuries And It’s Truly Fascinating
At its core, graffiti is an attempt to send a message and to claim ownership of a public space. There’s one spot in New Mexico where people have been doing just that for the last four centuries! Inscription Rock at El Morro National Monument is one of the most fascinating displays of graffiti you’ll ever see.
Travelers passing through this portion of New Mexico (between Grants and Ramah) faced an arduous journey. When they spied this 200-foot sandstone mesa towering in front of them, they would have felt intense relief because the rock formation marks the location of a watering hole.
Tired travelers often camped here, reviving themselves at the pool tucked into the base of the cliffs.
This pool can collect 200,000 galleons of water, which comes from summer monsoons.
The presence of 700-year-old petroglyphs shows that Native Americans used this oasis.
The first European to come here was Juan de Oñate, the Spaniard who led expeditions through the American Southwest. He left his mark on Inscription Rock in 1605, before Jamestown was established and before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock.
Follow the half-mile long Inscription Trail loop, which is fully accessible. Use the pamphlet from the visitor center to decode the markings – there are more than 2000 of them!
Some messages are in Spanish and others in English. Viewing the carvings is like reading snippets from personal diaries at varying points in history.
For instance, in 1857, Lt. Edward Beale marked his presence here. He used the spot as a watering hole for the 25 camels he was taking through the desert on behalf of the U.S. Army.
In addition to seeing the inscriptions, you can also ascend to the top of the mesa via the
Headland Trail. This involves a two-mile challenging hike, either up a staircase or via a steep path, to the top of the bluff. (Some claim it’s easier to go up the path and down the stairs.)
The views from here more than compensate for the climb. You can admire the Zuni Mountains, El Malpais National Monument, and the Ancestral Puebloan Ruins called Atsinna.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, 1500 people lived in this multi-level, 875-room pueblo! It was abandoned during the 14th century.
Here is some information to help you plan a visit to El Morro, including a map. There is no charge to see this national monument.
If El Morro intrigues you, read our past article:
11 Historical Landmarks You Absolutely Must Visit In New Mexico.