By Nanci Dixon
A fun and informative stop on our recent travels was the lava fields in Grants, New Mexico. The huge rocks and slabs of lava that oozed out and blew out of volcanoes 3,000 – 5,000 years ago surround the interstate.
We stopped for the night at the local KOA and, although the campground was not much different than any small town overnight-only spot, they were situated on a lava field. The park had carved out an amazing trail through the lava. Informative signs dotted the trail and we thoroughly enjoyed our hike and learning more about the volcanoes that formed the area.
The area’s history
The Spanish called the land El Malpais, which means “the Badlands.” When the Spanish came through more than 500 years ago, the lava was too rough for their horses and wagons and they had to go around. El Malpais has five major lava flows.
El Calderon lava flow was 115,000 years ago and originated from the El Calderon volcano. The lava flowed out more than 25 miles and is up to 25 ft deep! Amazing.
Bandera Crater is nearby and there are ice caves there that stay frozen all year. Tours are available.
When a lava tube gets plugged up it causes the molten lava to form a big bubble or done. When it gets unplugged the lava suddenly empties out.
The ground around the lava flow and parts of the path consist of silt and clay that blew in to fill areas around the lava. It hardens like concrete but instantly turns to sticky mud in the rain.
In the distance is Mount Taylor, the highest mountain peak in New Mexico at 11,300 feet. It didn’t have a lava flow – it just blew its top off!
We could also see Burro Hill. It was higher than the lava flow and legend has it that the burros in the area fled up the hill to escape the Spanish and lived there for years.
If you’re in the area, it’s worth an overnight.