Today, as you drive through New Mexico, you can blast the air conditioning and sip bottled water. But imagine traveling across the high desert 400 years ago.
You would have been on horseback, or even on foot. You sought shade in the noonday heat, and relied on rare natural springs to quench your thirst.
El Morro would have seemed like paradise.
In a pool at the base of a golden limestone cliff, fresh water collects from rain and melting snow. Ancestral Pueblo Indians discovered this spot more than 700 years ago. Spanish explorers camped here in the 1600s. American settlers stopped for refreshment on their way westward.
How do we know? At El Morro National Monument, more than 2,000 hand-carved petroglyphs and inscriptions left by various people over the past 700 years are carefully preserved.
An easy half-mile loop trail takes you to the hidden pool, where you can view images, dates, and messages carved into the soft rock wall. If you’re up for a more strenuous climb, go to the top of the bluff (about 200 feet up) to see the ruins of the Ancestral Pueblo site Atsinna and get a panoramic view of the desert.
If You Go
Let your kids add to contemporary rock art at El Morro! Children can draw on special rocks set up near the Visitor Center.