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Geologic Tour of New Mexico — Federal Parks, Monuments, & Refuges

Tour site types: State Parks  Federal Parks  Other Features

Almost half of New Mexico is public land, and the federal government manages 34.7% of the land area in the state. Among these federal public lands are a number of outstanding National Parks, Monuments, Refuges, and Preserves.

Use criteria in the form below to search by region, physiographic province, keyword, or county. Combining search criteria may provide few or no results. You can also explore the map and click on sites directly.

There are currently 22 tours:

Valles Caldera National Preserve

Nelia Dunbar

The Valles Caldera National Preserve is one of the most geologically unique and significant areas in North America. The preserve encompasses much of the Valles caldera, a huge volcanic crater that formed 1.2 million years ago during an enormous volcanic eruption that spread ash over large parts of New Mexico. The caldera is located near the summit of the Jemez Mountains, a large volcanic complex in north-central New Mexico. The Valles caldera exhibits world-class examples of the landforms produced by a very large, explosive volcano, and the preservation and exposure of geological features within the Valles is spectacular. Much of what geologists know about large-scale explosive volcanism began with detailed studies of the rocks in the Valles caldera and Jemez Mountains, and the area continues to draw geologists from around the world. Since the eruption 1.2 million years ago, there has been uplift of the crater floor, followed by the eruption of smaller, younger volcanoes called “domes” within the crater left by the large eruption. Since then, the caldera has from time to time been home to a series of large lakes. This dynamic geological history is responsible for the beautiful and unique landscape that we see in the region today.

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White Sands National Park


America's newest national park (as of December 2019), White Sands is famous for its extensive sea of white gypsum dunes—indeed, it is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Located in the southern Tularosa Basin, the park was established as a national monument in 1933 and encompasses nearly 176,000 acres (275 square miles, including 115 square miles of gypsum sand dunes). The park not only contains the large dune field but also a saline mudflat called Alkali Flat, a smaller ephemeral salt lake (or playa) named Lake Lucero, parts of the gypsum-dust plains east of the dune field, and alluvial fans from the surrounding mountains. The dune field and Alkali Flat extend more than 12 miles to the north of the park onto the White Sands Missile Range.

Also see the White Sands National Park sample chapter from our popular field guide: The Geology of Southern New Mexico's Parks Monuments and Public Lands.

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