The Rio Grande del Norte national monument was established on 3/25/2013, by Presidential proclamation. This preserves about 242,555 acres of land near Taos, including the Rio Grande gorge, multiple volcanic cones and archeological collections of petroglyphs and evidence of human habitation dating back to the Archaic period.
An excerpt from the presidential proclamation. Read the full text at the Whitehouse.gov proclamation site.
In far northern New Mexico, the Río Grande Wild and Scenic River flows through a deep gorge at the edge of the stark and sweeping expanse of the Taos Plateau. Volcanic cones, including the Cerro de la Olla, Cerro San Antonio, and Cerro del Yuta, jut up from this surrounding plateau. Canyons, volcanic cones, wild rivers, and native grasslands harbor vital wildlife habitat, unique geologic resources, and imprints of human passage through the landscape over the past 10,000 years.
This extraordinary landscape of extreme beauty and daunting harshness is known as the Río Grande del Norte, and its extraordinary array of scientific and historic resources offer opportunities to develop our understanding of the forces that shaped northern New Mexico, including the diverse ecological systems and human cultures that remain present today.
The Río Grande gorge lies within the traditional area of the nearby Taos and Picuris Pueblos, as well as the Jicarilla Apache and Ute Tribes, and hosts a dazzling array of rock art. Carved into the boulders and cliffs are hundreds of images ranging from seemingly abstract swirls and dots to clear depictions of human and animal figures. Dense collections of petroglyphs are found near the hot springs that bubble up in the deep heart of the gorge, with some dating back to the Archaic Period (ca. 7,500 B.C. – 500 A.D.).
In addition to petroglyphs, these lands harbor small hunting blinds, pit houses, chipping stations, potsherds, tools and projectile points, as well as large ceramic vessels. The area is home to a rich array of archaeological resources that represent diverse cultural traditions. Archeological resources are found throughout the proposed monument, with its rugged terrain serving as the focal point for ongoing archaeological research. More recent artifacts and images mark the passage of settlers and Hispanic explorers dating back to the early 18th century. Ongoing explorations and inquiries of this unique cultural landscape have resulted in continuous discoveries that further illuminate northern New Mexico’s human history.