We seem to have a tendency to find little gems in the middle of nowhere. City of Rocks certainly qualifies. We are in southwest New Mexico, a little south of the Gila National Forest, smack dab in the middle of a flat dry desert and here we find the “City of Rocks”.
Established in 1952 this tiny (less than a square mile) state park is a geological gem in the midst of miles of rather barren Chihuahuan desert. Driving the dusty road in from the highway gives no clue as to what awaits here. Only in the last quarter mile do you get a glimpse of the namesake volcanic tuff features that make up the City of Rocks.
The Emory Caldera erupted 35 million years ago in a massive years long eruption believed to be 1000 times great than the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption. The ash cloud, several hundred cubic miles of it, traveled over 100 miles from the caldera depositing a thick layer of hot ash and pumice.The great heat and pressure on the layers of ash converted it into a dense rock called tuff. This is quite similar to the process that formed the Chiricahua National Monument that we recently visited. What is different here is that there was no uplift to raise the solidified ash into mountains. As the layers cooled and contracted vertical cracks formed Gradual wind erosion, vegetative pressure and freeze-thaw cycles exposed the long buried tuff.
The myriad features in the park were formed by these erosive forces working in the cracks, breaking away rock and leaving these fantastic forms. It has been a blast wandering, as we do, around this fantastic little park.
The park is home to Cottontails and Jackrabbits, several species of Rattlesnake,coyotes, lizards, and many birds.
We especially appreciate that the designers of the park sited the campground in the middle of the “City” and we are surrounded by the whimsical figures.
In closing I would like to remind you all that one never knows what disasters may hover over our heads, so get out and see some of this great country while you still can.