Ancient Petroglyphs of Boca Negra Canyon
Boca Negra Canyon is part of Petroglyph National Monument. It is just one of many historic sites in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Boca Negra Canyon located off Unser Blvd, 1/4 mile north of Mantano Rd. The petroglyphs of Boca Negra Canyon were created between 400 – 700 years ago though some of them are over 1000 years old. A trip to the various locations that make up Petroglyph National Monument should be high on your list of things to do while visiting Albuquerque.
Incidentally, Boca Negra means “black mouth” and is a reference to the black rocks on the volcanic cliffs that line Albuquerque’s west side.
The Petroglyphs of Boca Negra Canyon are messages left by ancient people in New Mexico
Petroglyphs are rock carvings made by pecking directly on the stone surface using a stone chisel and a hammer stone. They are “ancient graffiti”, if you will. A petroglyph is created by chipping off the dark patina on the surface of the rock and revealing the lighter rock underneath. Archeologist have estimated that up to 25,000 petroglyph images exist along the 17 miles of volcanic cliffs within the monument boundary.
According to the National Park Service website, up to 90% of the monument’s petroglyphs were created by ancestors of modern day Pueblo people. Puebloans have lived in the Rio Grande Valley since before 500 A.D. It is believed that most of the petroglyphs were carved between 1300 and the late 1680’s.
Things to do in Albuquerque
If you enjoy hiking, you’ve come to the right place! Albuquerque offers many miles of hiking trails without ever leaving the city. From the foothills of the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande bosque to the volcanic cliffs of the city’s west side, hiking is one of the most popular and fun things to do in Albuquerque.
It is a wonderful privilege to have a place like this in the middle of the city. You can walk through the silent desert and watch a raven fly up over the canyon wall, exactly the way ancient people did hundreds of years ago. The city doesn’t need more strip malls and convenience stores, it needs more places to breathe and connect to nature.
For a trail map of Boca Negra Canyon, click here.
More information about the ancient petroglyphs of Boca Negra Canyon
Boca Negra Canyon is a day use area that is open daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Last entry at 4:00pm is strictly enforced and camping or other overnight activities are prohibited. There are three self guided trails; Macaw, Mesa Point and Cliff Base. The trails are short and the combined walking time is roughly one hour. There are approximately 100 petroglyphs in Boca Negra Canyon, and I think I photographed most of them.
How your presence can be beneficial
When I visit places like Boca Negra Canyon I can’t help but think that it would be better off without all of us tromping through it on a regular basis. That being said, there are some ways in which your presence can be beneficial to the preservation of the petroglyphs. Be a paid visitor to the park and don’t mess anything up while you’re there. Remember, take only photographs and leave only footprints. No one likes “new petroglyphs”, so don’t try to create your own.
These photos were shot on November 29, 2018 and originally published to the old Dry Heat Blog in December of 2018.