Petroglyph Volcanoes

Vulcan is the largest volcano. Cinder (seen to the left) has been reduced by mining to a hole in the ground.

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.

Scoria is rock fragments that contain numerous gas bubbles frozen into place as magma exploded into the air and then cooled quickly.

Splatter is formed when the magma contains enough gas to prevent a lava flow, but not enough to shatter it into small fragments. Because splatter is not fully solid when it lands, the individual deposits are very iregular in shape and weld together as they cool.

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.

From the top of Vulcan, one can see JA, Black, and the pit that used to be Cinder.

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.

Four Blackhaw and three Chinook holecopters at Double Eagle Airport.

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.

From the top of Vulcan, we watched the Blackhawks returning to their base at Kirtland.

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.

View of JA Volcano from the trailhead

Adventure Maps

Petroglyph National Monument: Volcanoes


JA Volcano on the left; Black Volcano in the center; Vulcan Volcano on the right.