El Morro National Monument - Unique Places in North America

El Morro National Monument is a popular tourist destination.
El Morro National Monument is a popular tourist destination.

El Morro National Monument is located to the west of the state of New Mexico’s legendary east-west trail. The shaded oasis has hosted travelers for over 2,000 years. Visitors called it the Inscription Rock, where travelers inscribed different kinds of writings such as names, dates, signatures, and stories of their journeys. Spaniards named the land El Morro which means “the headland.” American Indians were the native settlers and gave the land a name, Atsina which means “inscription stone.”


As one approaches the majestic promontory, it is easy to tell why the monument is such a tourist spectacle. Some famous emigrants who left their inscriptions at the monument include Leonard Rose and John Udell of the Rose-Baley Party. There also exist intriguing stone carvings that were made by the Ancestral Puebloan who lived many centuries before Europeans made their first mark. Natural features and ecosystems include the pool, tinajas, and cryptobiotic soils. A more detailed description of the landmark is available on loan from the Rangers. It contains the exact locations of the inscriptions and has interpretations for most of them.


El Morro is well endowed with a great variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies. Numerous bird species live here. Reptiles include the fearsome diamondback rattlesnake, docile bullsnake, sagebrush lizard, and the New Mexico whiptail. The reptiles and other carnivores are sustained by the high rodent population. Amphibians include tiger salamanders which feed on frogs and worms. The presence of blooming flowers dramatically motivates the influx of butterflies to the site.


The monument is free to enter and has many benefits. First, there is a Visitor Center with a gift shop, restrooms, and a free 15-minute video. For those who dread rocky mountain hiking, El Morro’s hiking trails have made the exercise bearable by the stairs which run all the way to the top of the rock formation. Ruins left by Native Americans have also been the delight of tourists. A short stroll through the park trails will reveal many inscriptions, the water pool, and the promontory. However, making more carvings or inscriptions was prohibited by the US federal law in 1906. A more recent legacy features El Morro National Monument in Four Faces West film of 1948.


The monument had received 59,422 tourists by 2016 from different parts of the world to catch a fleeting glimpse of what native settlers experienced. There is a myriad of leisure activities to enjoy at the El Morro which include hiking, walking, picnicking, and so on. Visitors can engage in a fascinating 2-mile hike across the top of the rock formation. The campgrounds are also great and have a pit latrine for a restroom.


The native flora and fauna that beautified the ancient El Morro grounds have significantly reduced over the years. Reducing flora in the site is the primary threat that is raising concerns among the monument’s management. In addition to habitat threats, the monument’s inscriptions are gradually fading away due to weathering and a high tourist footfall.


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