The Volcanoes are a prominent part of the Albuquerque landscape. They are very visible on the Western horizon. Interestingly, I had never been there. It was time to remedy the situation.
Albuquerque lies in the Rio Grande Rift Valley that extends from Chihuahua, Mexico to Leadville, CO. A rift valley is caused by the earth’s crust shifting and thinning. This thinning provides an opening for magma from the mantle to rise to the surface, and that is what happened here. A fissure opened and magma flowed onto the surface, hardening into the black basalt rocks that are ubiquitous on the West Mesa. Eventually the fissure closed, except for five cracks that became fissure volcanoes, the object of today’s adventure.
The five volcanoes (south to north) are JA, Black, Cinder, Vulcan, and Bond. The plan was to visit them all on a 6.3 mile hike. However, we cut the hike short because the parking lot gate closes at 5:00 and we weren’t sure to be back in time, and also, to non-geologists, the hike just wasn’t that interesting.
Surprisingly, the parking area was full. There seemed to be an organized activity taking place; I later found out that ranger-led tours of the volcanoes are regularly held.
Cinder Volcano has been mined until it is just a hole in the ground. Black Volcano was much more impressive in the past, before mining reduced its size.
The views from the top of the volcanoes were impressive. We could see completely across the Rio Grande valley to the Sandias in the east. Double Eagle airport lies just to the north, and we could clearly see aircraft operating, including four Blackhawks and three Chinooks from Kirtland Air Force Base. The Chinooks flew in as we were driving up to the parking area, and the Blackhawks departed toward the end of our hike.