I have always been fascinated by Petroglyphs – the mystery, the artwork, and that someone spent hours to etch each form into stone. What was their purpose? What messages were left behind?  Was it early teenagers adding graffiti to the landscape? or a perhaps, a laborious form of ancient texting?

Between Bosque del Apache and White Sands National Monument, I wanted to stop at a place called Three Rivers Petroglyphs. It is a BLM site that promised over 20,000 petroglyphs of all kinds (animals, people, and geometric designs) dating from 900-1400 AD.  It wasn’t far off the highway, and we had time to kill before our next stop at White Sands. But I was hesitant to mention it to Jeff.  He is not a fan of Petroglyphs in general, and we’ve been duped before at a couple of other petroglyph sites, I can understand his lack of enthusiasm. In fact, the most recent dupe was back in October when we scrambled along mile and a half trail, up a rocky hill and over a barbed wire fence to locate one small panel of “hands” high up on a rock face. Needless to say, he was not impressed.

When I first mentioned this stop to Jeff, he rolled his eyes and mumbled something under his breath. But, I really did want to see the petroglyphs. As we drove closer, I ventured into the area of possible wrath, by bringing it up again. Another roll of the eyes and a deep groan. I offered that he could stay in the car and catch up on his sports news on his iPhone as I explored the site. This pacified him a little. However, if you know Jeff,  you know that he could not sit in the car if there is the potential that I could “get the shot” that he might regret missing.

There we were at midday with harsh light as we set off to explore the ridge. Behind me on the trail, I heard mumbling and complaining, and I wondered what I could have done to better set this stop up for success (i.e., selling it). Those thoughts disappeared as I stumbled across my first petroglyph and looked to locate more. It was indeed a adventure of discovery.

The snow capped mountains added interest to the otherwise harsh noon day light.
How many petroglyphs can you count? I count at least a dozen.

As we ambled up the rocky ridge, markings could be found on all types of rocks and on all sides. They ranged from worn out chicken scratches, to more deeply etched artwork.

Any guesses on what is being depicted on the far left rock?

There was a main trail with numerous side trails. I soon lost sight of Jeff. This was a good thing. He was so preoccupied with capturing these unique drawings that he raced ahead of me and disappeared over the ridge. 

Doesn’t Jeff look like he’s having fun?

An hour later we’d only made it part way up the trail, but we had encountered dozens if not hundreds of petroglyphs. If we’d had more time, I think we (yes, both of us) would have enjoyed another hour or two.

Were there really 20,000? I don’t know. Perhaps another visit is in order? Then again, I probably shouldn’t push my luck.

Remember, it’s all about the light.