Learn about PNM

Image from the US Department of the Interior National Park Service

Petroglyph National Monument (PNM) was established in 1990 and is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. Petroglyph National Monument shelters a variety of cultural and natural resources including volcanos, archeological sites and an estimated 20,000 carved images. Many of the images clearly represent animals, people, and crosses; others are more abstract. These images are inseparable from the cultural landscape, the spirits of the people who created them, and those who appreciate them. These images are a valuable record of cultural expression and hold profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans and for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers.

Image from the US Department of the Interior National Park Service

The 7,240-acre monument is unique not only in its landscape and history, but in its management as well. Authorized June 27, 1990, the Monument is managed under a Cooperative Management Agreement signed by the National Park Service (NPS) and the City of Albuquerque to manage and protect its nearly 20,000 petroglyphs and provide recreational and educational opportunities to the public. The National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque agreed that the lands in the monument, including the City-owned lands, shall be perpetually managed in accordance with the agreement. Unfortunately, that is not what is being done - showing that such partnerships do not always succeed. In part, this partnership has failed because the NPS has thus far been unable or unwilling to use its powers to preserve and protect the park. The historical lands of Petroglyph National Monument have not been properly taken care of by the City of Albuquerque or the National Park Service.

A buildup of dead tumbleweeds has started to accumulate, shown in the picture to the right, at the Northern Geological Window (NGW) of Petroglyph National Monument in the Piedras Marcadas Unit. The prevailing winds are generally from the west, so when the tumbleweeds roll across the mesa and over the escarpment top, they hit dead air space, drop, and accumulate, becoming buried over the years. The accumulation of tumbleweeds over many years has in some places made important petroglyph concentrations difficult or impossible for visitors to access; these sites include 1) the narrows of the Boca Negra Arroyo canyon along the top (north portion); and 2) several sites along the east-facing escarpment overlooking the motocross scars. If a worker (or a visitor) steps on the matted tumbleweeds, he or she may plunge some distance through them to the escarpment rocks underneath--or disturb hidden rattlesnakes (and this is the season for them). Removing these tumbleweed mats from NGW prime visitor areas is a must.

Off-road vehicle (ORV) activities impact natural vegetation and wildlife, which can lead to erosion, invasive species, habitat loss, and ultimately species loss, decreasing an ecosystem's ability to maintain homeostasis. Motocross scarring (in the photo to the right) is seen as what looks like a bunch of spaghetti loops at the eastern edge of the satellite photo. ORVs are a significant source of noise pollution. More importantly, they are a significant source of air pollution, track related damages, animal injuries and fatalities, fossil fuel consumption, soil erosion and damage to the land. Recreational ORV use detracts from the experience of other visitors and inflicts serious long-term damage on fragile desert resources.

Some of the lands within the monument have become a dumping ground for illegal disposal of construction waste. Construction waste dumping has occurred in the head of the Piedras Marcadas Arroyo, the site within PNM containing over 3,000 prehistoric images-- the greatest number within the Monument. The site is a major visitor attraction. The entire NGW, containing the head of Piedras Marcadas Arroyo at the upper end and the pueblo ruin at the lower end, is an "unparalleled cultural corridor" and without a doubt the most primitive landscape in PNM.

The petroglyphs within the arroyo, likely created at the same time and by some of the same people as occupied the Piedras Marcadas Pueblo (1320-1680AD), are vital historical artifacts that form a key component of the visitor experience at Petroglyph National Monument. Removal of the debris and blocks of concrete must proceed with caution, however, as removal of heavy trash could ruin petroglyphs or other artifacts, and federal officials have said there could be asbestos in the construction debris.

You can do something to clean up Petroglyph