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Geologic Tour of New Mexico — Physiographic Provinces

Tour site types: State Parks  Federal Parks  Other Features
(Click map to hide/show the physiographic province overlay.)

The varied landscape of New Mexico is divided in six distinct physiographic provinces, each with characteristic landforms and a unique geologic history. We invite you to investigate points of geologic interest located in each province.

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.





   

Read more about each physiographic province:

The selection of tours shown below are listed in random order.

Coyote Creek State Park

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L. Greer Price

Coyote Creek State Park is along NM–434, 18 mi north of Mora and 17 mi south of Angel Fire in the eastern Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. The park is at the bottom of Guadalupita Canyon, elevation 7,700 ft, where Coyote Creek runs through meadows surrounded by mountain forest before joining the Rio Mora and eventually the Canadian River to the southeast. La Mesa forms the eastern ridge and is 9,112 ft in elevation. Ocate is to the east on the eastern side of La Mesa. The Rincon Range forms the western skyline and is 9,100 ft in elevation.

Coyote Creek State Park is famous for its variety of wildflowers, including geraniums, sunflowers, iris, and primrose. Be careful of the poison ivy that also grows along the creek and hillslopes! Along the hills alpine fir, blue spruce, Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, Gambel oak, hairy mountain mahogany, one-seed juniper, piñon, ponderosa pine, quaking aspen, Rocky Mountain juniper, wavy­leaf oak, and white fir grow. Chinouapin oak, chokecherry, narrowleaf cottonwood, and willow grow along Coyote Creek. Wildlife common in the area include deer, bear, elk, raccoon, squirrel, beaver, coyote, and many birds.

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Tyrone Mine

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Richard Kelley

The Tyrone mining district, the second largest porphyry copper deposit in New Mexico, is located 10 miles southwest of Silver City in the Burro Mountains of southwestern New Mexico. Native Americans initially mined turquoise from the area around 600 AD. Underground mining was established in the early 1860s and the current mode of mining, open-pit stripping, began in 1968. The mine became part of Freeport-McMoRan in 2007. Parts of the pit are currently being reclaimed.

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Jemez State Monument

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Jemez State Monument is in scenic Cañon de San Diego, which is located to the southwest of the Toledo and Valles calderas, large collapse features that formed during voluminous volcanic eruptions 1.6 and 1.25 million years ago in the Jemez Mountains. The monument lies near the mouth of Church Canyon, a tributary to the Jemez River within Cañon de San Diego. Two main rock units, the Pennsylvanian Madera Group and Permian Abo Formation, are exposed in and adjacent to the monument (Figures 3 and 4). Both limestone from the Madera Group and sandstone from the Abo Formation were incorporated into the walls of the 15th century pueblo and the 17th century Spanish mission at Jemez State Monument. Large rounded boulders of early Jemez volcanic field basalt and andesite lavas that were eroded from the high cliffs of Cañon de San Diego and carried by the Jemez River and flash floods in Church Canyon to the vicinity of the monument are also included in the walls of the structures.

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Sugarite Canyon State Park

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William Muehlberger

Sugarite Canyon State Park, once the site of a thriving coal-mining camp, was established as a state park in 1985, but the canyon has been a recreational attraction in northeastern New Mexico for decades. Sugarite Canyon State Park is located about 5 miles northeast of Raton via NM-72 and NM-526 (paved). The elevation in the park ranges from about 6,900 ft to 8,400 ft. This heavily wooded mountain park has something for everyone year round. Trails are maintained through the ruins of the settlement and past coal dumps and mines.

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Lincoln State Monument

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Shari Kelley

Lincoln State Monument encompasses most of the community of Lincoln, New Mexico and commemorates the lives of many of the key players in the Lincoln County War (1878-1881). Lincoln, which is located in south-central New Mexico, can be access via U.S. Highway 380. The community was originally named La Placita del Rio Bonito (village of the pretty river); the stream that runs along the north side of the village is called the Rio Bonito. The legislature of the territory of New Mexico, encouraged by local citizenry, renamed the village Lincoln in 1869, in honor of President Lincoln, who was assassinated 4 years earlier.

The main visitor’s center for the monument is located near the east end of town on the north side of the highway. The Lincoln County Courthouse Museum, which highlights the escapades and legal troubles of William H. Bonney (Billy the Kid), is the other main attraction associated with the monument. The courthouse is on the west end of town on the south side of the highway. Admission tickets ($5 for adults, children under 16 free) may be purchased at the visitor’s center or at the courthouse. Other buildings that can be visited as part of the tour include the Montaño store, the San Juan mission, the torreon, the post office and Turnstall Museum, and Dr. Wood’s home.

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Leasburg Dam State Park

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Peter A. Scholle

Leasburg Dam State Park is adjacent to Fort Selden State Monument on NM–157 (Fort Selden Road) at the Radium Springs exit on I–25, north of Las Cruces. It is an area rich in both geologic and human history. The location was an ancient Indian campground and a crossing point for Spanish caravans headed across the Jornada del Muerto. Living-history demonstrations of 19th century military life at Fort Selden highlight many weekends during the summer. Wildlife viewing, especially bird watching, is popular at the state park. A bird list is available from the park office. In the winter months many species of ducks, teals, snow geese, cranes, herons, egrets, swans, and pelicans migrate through the southern Rio Grande valley and can be seen at the state park. Numerous raptors, including owls, turkey vultures, eagles, and hawks, can be seen hunting in the area. Small mammals common to the park include rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, rodents, coyotes, and foxes.

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Monument Rock

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Richard Chamberlin

Monument Rock is located west of Socorro and north of U.S. Highway 60 in the eastern Sawtooth Mountains of Catron County, New Mexico. The area can be reached from Datil by traveling west along Highway 60, 12.3 miles to Forest Road 6A. Turn right on Forest Road 6A and drive north 3.7 miles to the prominent spire of Monument Rock.

The area can also be accessed from Pie Town by driving east along U.S. Highway 60 to Forest Road 316. Turn left onto Forest Road 316 and drive northeast 3.5 miles to Forest Road 6A. Turn left and drive 1.1 miles to Monument Rock.

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Pecos National Historical Park

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U.S. National Park Service

Pecos National Historical Park lies in the extreme western portion of San Miguel County, in the broad valley of the Pecos River where the river leaves its deep canyon in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The timeless cycles of geologic history are on display in the ancient and modern river deposits in the park. The spectacular cliffs of sedimentary rocks on Glorieta Mesa to the south and the rugged mountains to the north provide a beautiful geologic setting for the ruins and contain rocks that record shifting shorelines and the birth and erosion of mountains.

The site is of enormous cultural and historical significance. The pueblo here was occupied at least as early as 1450. The Coronado Expedition passed through here in 1541 en route to the Great Plains. Spanish missionaries followed soon thereafter. In 1621 the Franciscans built the adobe church whose ruins tower over the park today. In 1680 the Pueblo Revolt put an end to the efforts of the church throughout northern New Mexico; the priest at Pecos was killed and the church laid waste. The site was occupied by the Pecos Indians until 1838.

We haven't created a detailed geologic tour for this site yet [view external website]. 

Rock Hound State Park and Spring Canyon Recreation Area

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Robert Colburn

Rockhound State Park lies in the Little Florida Mountains southeast of Deming, New Mexico. It was established in 1966 as the first park in the United States that allowed collecting of rocks and minerals for personal use. Each visitor is allowed to collect as much as 15 lb of rocks and minerals from the 1,100-acre park; mineral dealers are not allowed to collect for sale. Rockhound State Park actually consists of two separate units, the main park and Spring Canyon Recreation Area. Spring Canyon lies in the northern Florida Mountains, south of the main park, and is open for day use only from Easter through November.

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Santa Rosa Lake State Park

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Santa Rosa, "the city of natural lakes", lies in the semiarid, upper Pecos River valley in Guadalupe County where numerous natural artesian-spring lakes abound. Blue Hole, one of these lakes located within the city limits, is well known for its crystal-clear water and attracts scuba divers. However, the largest lake in the area is man made—Santa Rosa Lake, located about seven miles north of the city on the Pecos River. The dam was completed in 1981 at a cost of $43 million for conservation of irrigation water and flood and sedimentation control. The name of the dam was changed from Los Esteros (Spanish for pond or estuary) in 1980 when the state park was authorized.

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