Three Rivers Petroglyphs

Three Rivers Petroglyphs

The Jornada Mogollon probably descended from nomadic peoples who inhabited south-central New Mexico from approximately 5000 B.C. By 900 A.D., the Jornada Mogollon had established villages around what is now Three Rivers, New Mexico. They lived by farming, hunting wild game and gathering edible desert plants such as mesquite seeds, prickly pear cactus, and yucca. Water draining from the 12,003-foot Sierra Blanca to the east allowed corn, squash, and beans to be grown.

Extensive trade routes linked the Jornada Mogollon to other cultures to the north, south, and west. The artists who created this rock art lived along a well-established trade route that connected Central America with the northern pueblos.

A severe drought at the end of the thirteenth century was probably the cause of the decline of the Jornada Mogollon culture. By 1400 A.D. the sites around Three Rivers had been abandoned.

The rock carvings at this site, pictured in the header above, were made using stone tools. Many designs are similar to the Mimbres style found in Southwestern New Mexico. Archaeologists aren’t certain what most of the symbols found at Three Rivers mean. Perhaps they had religious meanings, or perhaps they were used to record significant events.

The petroglyphs are located on a ridge overlooking the Jornada del Muerto (Desert of Death). To the west is the Tularosa Basin. Along the western horizon stand the San Andres Mountains, with the glistening white powder of White Sands National Monumement at their base. To the east is 12,003 foot Sierra Blanca Mountain in the southern most peaks of the Rockies.

It is truly a place filled with stunning beauty in all directions. There is a small building and some covered picnic tables in the parking area. Off to one side is a trail that goes for about a mile. As you leave the parking lot, you go about five hundred yards before the rock art begins. There are an estimated 21,000 plus petroglyphs at this site, so you can look all day and only see a small portion.

At the end of the trail are some ruins of pueblo type structures. The entire area is amazing with these rocks on a trail that some artist spent a large part of their existence creating as their expression of life. I highly recommend a trip to this magical place in Central New Mexico. ~R~