Located near Las Cruces, New Mexico, this BLM managed land is among the few locations in America that stand out for its rock art and historic value. Even rarer is for a site to give such an open and direct view to visitors of these ancient rock art pieces and witness the grandeur of the past with their very own eyes. The huge quantity and concentration of petroglyphs found here make it one of the biggest and most popular petroglyphs sites in the Southwest.
These rock arts aren’t ordinary by any means. The fascination and magnificence of these petroglyphs are enhanced by the fact that they were created between 900 and 1400 AD by Jornada Mogollon people, for whom communicating through stone tools and rock was as common as the alphabet is for us. Little did they know that the series of thousands of images they scraped through the dark film of the basalt rock would be so valued today. Part of the reason it is so highly valued is that it was created by one of the three major native groups that dominated the southwest, present-day United States.
Three Rivers Petroglyphs Site is home to more than 21,000 glyphs of geometric and abstract design as well as glyphs of humans, insects, fish, plants, birds, animals, and those of mythical figures and slain animals. These rock artworks can be found scattered all over the 50 acres of the northern Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico.
Three Rivers Petroglyphs can be found 17 miles from Tularosa, New Mexico and just 28 miles south of Carrizozo, New Mexico. Head on to the US – 54 and turn east at the Three Rivers onto Otero County Road B30. Drive for a little over five miles, follow the signs and you’ll see your destination on the left, in no time, and with little hassle.
Signs on the route to the petroglyphs site are very good, so trust them to take you to your endpoint. The drive through the US-54 is very calming as the large desert expands on either side with views of the snow-capped mountain ranges in the distance. The normal precautions of driving on the highway should be taken.
RV parking is also available at the large parking area at the site.
Three Rivers Petroglyph Site manages its own campground, which is equipped with 5 shelter sites with picnic tables and cooking grills. One group site is handicap accessible. The campsite also has a group site that comes with three picnic tables arranged under a wide shelter and two grills, making it perfect for big families or groups of friends enjoying the outdoors together.
The campground also has two RV sites with water and electric hookups as well as covered picnic tables and grills. All the campsites are gravel and tents can also be pitched on five designated sites on the campground.
The campground boasts clean and well-maintained restrooms and potable water. Owners can bring their leashed pets to the campsites but pets aren’t allowed on the trails. The petroglyphs and rock art are too valuable and must not be touched or vandalized by visitors or pets in any way.
If there are no more campsites left when you visit here, you can head to the Lincoln National Forest and stay in the Three Rivers Campground just a few miles from here. This rustic campground has 12 campsites and connects to both the Three Rivers Trailhead and the White Mountain Wilderness region. The campground offers vault toilets, potable water, picnic tables, and parking. Max RV length here is 25 feet and stay is limited to 14 days at a stretch.
Three River Petroglyph Site Trail is a 1.2 mile rugged out and back trail. The trailhead is located at the visitor shelter and creates a collection of the most interesting petroglyphs located in the vicinity. The path of this trail is rocky and is accessible for walking and hiking all year, and for all skill levels.
While this one trail leads to the petroglyphs, another trail near the picnic area leads right to the village of the people who made these petroglyphs. Mogollon occupied this village and the general area for 400 years. On your admission to the site, you’ll get a trail guide with trail markers and indications of particular petroglyphs.
Mogollon village was home to the artists behind this rock art, but that wasn’t the only trace they left behind. This village was occupied by them for nearly 400 years and was only partially excavated during the late 1970s. At this village, visitors are able to witness three types of foundations from pre-historic times including the small pueblo ruin and the Sierra Blanca.
At almost 12,000 feet, Sierra Blanca Peak has a reputation of being one of the grandest peaks around, and rightly so. Protruding from the sandy desert, this snow-capped peak remains snow-covered even in the summers and has the highest prominence in New Mexico. Many visitors plan a trip to Three Rivers Petroglyph Site just to summit this highpoint.
Three Rivers Petroglyphs Site is a major picnic spot with its surrounding beauty and all its various facilities. There are five shelter sites in the picnic area with picnic tables, cooking grills, restrooms, and drinking water. There is also an ADA accessible picnic site. Since the area is remote you can often find a nice quiet spot to enjoy a romantic picnic or bond with family and friends.
Mountain bikers enjoy the open roads and trails designated to them, as they speed past this beautiful desert and mountain landscape. Most trails are multi-use, so caution is required when sharing the trail with pedestrians, hikers, motorcycles, and ATV riders. Ride with caution and you will have a great time exploring this vast and exquisite terrain.
Three Rivers Petroglyph Site offers so much to capture for photographers that one day doesn't do this place any justice. The array of rock art, the historic Mogollon Village, and the mystical Sierra Blanca Peak allow plenty of opportunities to capture some truly amazing pictures of the ancestral sacred landscape and surrounding wilderness beauty.