Welcome to Boca Negra Canyon, in the MetroABQ’s Westside Petroglyph National Monument. Boca Negra Canyon, above, is Albuquerque’s most visited petroglyph site; the unique rock-art and amazing city views are reasons why. Boca Negra sits on the West Mesa escarpment, which is a 17-mile long cliff of basalt boulders carved about 200,000 years ago when six volcanoes erupted, causing lava to flow “down old arroyo channels, forming peninsulas that have since eroded away to form canyons.” ~NPS.gov

The escarpment, volcanoes and the dedicated westside greenspaces of the Petroglyph National Monument are extremely important to the MetroABQ area due to the Urban Heat Island effect.

 

The lush Rio Grande Valley and the stunning remnants of the Westside’s three largest volcanoes has attracted settlers here for thousands of years. Early people struck the dark basaltic surfaces of the escarpment rock to reveal lighter surfaces below, creating petroglyph art.


There are more than 25,000 petroglyph images chipped into the rock. From NPS.gov, “Perhaps 90% of the petroglyphs were created using the Rio Grande Style, which developed about A.D. 1300. The Rio Grande Style includes human figures such as the flute player or dancers; masks and masked figures and animals, including birds, serpents, mountain lions; spirals and geometric designs.”

The West Mesa Volcanoes may look a little barren from across the river, but upon further inspection, they are teaming with plant and animal varieties. NPS: “The Volcanic Escarpment contains sandy soil and richer habitat than the surrounding desert landscape. A wider variety & greater number of plants and animals are found here–which in turn have attracted people to the area from the earliest of times.”

The amazing Rinconada Canyon is the lowest blue arrow on the map, below, and Boca Negra Canyon is the top blue arrow.


Rinconada & Boca Negra Canyons & the Volcano Cones: JA, Black and Vulcan.

From what is now called Atrisco Vista Blvd, formerly Paseo del Volcan, there is easy access to the Three Sisters–the largest of the six basalt volcanic cones rimming the Westside. Starting with #1, JA Volcano is the easiest hike; #2, Black Volcano has a ‘moderate’ degree of difficulty, according to NPS. The tallest is the Vulcan Volcano, #3, which, from NPS, “the level top is a mini-volcanic valley;” the views of the city from there are extraordinary!