Prehistoric Trackways National Monument
Member Since: 07/18/2012
Contact: McKinney Briske
1800 Marquess Street
Las Cruces, NM 88005
Educational Partners: New Mexico State University
- Big Picture
Prehistoric Trackways National Monument has the early Permian world caught in stone. Hundred of fossil sites in and around the Monument preserve this extinct, ecosystem. Fossilized trackways, marine fossils, plant fossils all tell the story of tens of millions of years before the dinosaurs and hundreds of millions of years before humans.
This incredible fossil record has received worldwide recognition. It has been studied by scientists, museums and research facilities all over the world. Over 65 scientific publications have been written about topics concerning the Trackways. Because of its scientific importance, on March 30th of 2009, US Congress designated it Prehistoric Trackways National Monument. Present and future generations will be able to learn, discover and explore this ancient period in the Earth's history by visiting Prehistoric Trackways National Monument.
The climate is arid with mild winters and warm-to-hot summers. Summer daytime temperatures often exceed 100 o F. Average annual precipitation is slightly less than 9 inches. In July, August and early September the Monsoon season usually brings strong thunderstorms that can cause flash flooding in the arroyos and canyons that frequent the landscape.
The Monument is located in the southern third of the Robledo Mountains and is approximately 10 miles northwest of the City of Las Cruces in Do
Prehistoric Trackways is high desert. It sits in the Robledo Mountains, with a high elevation of almost 6,000 feet, located in the northern portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. It runs along the edge of the Mesilla Valley which has the Rio Grande River cutting through it.
The plants in the Robledo Mountains are typical of those found in the Chihuahuan desert vegetation, much of which is desert shrubs and grasses. The dominant shrub is creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) co-dominated by tarbush (Flourensia cernua), four-wing saltbush (Atriplex canescens), and/or acacias (Acacia spp.) depending upon the location. Dominant grasses include grama (Bouteloua breviseta), and alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides). A recent inventory of the plants by the Southern New Mexico Native Plant Society has produced a list with a wide variety of desert plants of over 200 species. Species from the Agave family, Onion family, Composite family, Mustard family, Cactus family, Caper family, Goosefoot family, Morning glory family, Cypress family, Ocotillo family, Rose family, Verbena family, and many more have been noted within the Monument.
Faunal components of the Monument are typical of the Chihuahuan Desert, but also include species that may be found along the Rio Grande and the nearby farming areas in the Mesilla Valley. Species that may be found within the Monument include such amphibians as New Mexico spadefoot toads, Great Plains toads, green toads, and red-spotted toads. Reptiles may include common side-blotched lizards, marbled whiptail lizards, collared lizards, gopher snakes, striped whipsnakes, and Western diamondback rattlesnakes. Mammals that may be found in the Monument include mule deer, javelina, grey fox, coyote, black-tailed jackrabbits, desert cottontails, spotted ground squirrels, Merriam
Not many cultural artifacts have been found within the Monument, mostly due to lack of archaeological survey. Most artifacts found up to this point is lithic scatter from stone tool making. However the area around it is rich in archaeological resources, telling of a long story of occupation of the area. There are several distinct periods or traditions that are discernible in the archaeological records for the area which the Monument is in. The earliest occupation occurred from about 9,500 BC to approximately 6,000 BC. This period is known as the Paleo-Indian period. Paleo-Indian people are thought to have been mobile hunters and gatherers who focused on migratory big game some species of which are not extinct. The second prehistoric period is referred to as the Archaic or Desert Archaic. The Archaic cultures are believed to have occupied the larger area from around 6,000 BC to about 100 AD. The origins of agriculture in the Southwest begin during this period. The third period or tradition has been identified as the Mogollon. This tradition begins at approximately 200 AD and extends to approximately 1450 AD. Within this time period, several distinct changes begin to occur in the archaeological record. Agriculture becomes the basic element of the economy although supplemented by hunting and gathering in varying degrees. Pottery is introduced. When the Mogollon Period ends there appears to be a complete break in occupation although this may be more apparent than real.
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