Programs & Services

Geodiversity: The Unique Diversity of New Mexico’s Geologic Landscape

Sunset over Wheeler Peak from Angel Fire. Courtesy: New Mexico Tourism Department.

The cultural diversity of New Mexico is reflected in its people, history, art, culture, and food. But there is another kind of diversity that makes New Mexico special — our landscape. Think about the beauty of New Mexico: the colorful mesas of Ghost Ranch, rugged Wheeler Peak, the Gila Wilderness, Valles Caldera and its hot springs, the Sandia Mountains, the cliffs along the Gila River, or our amazing caverns. The diversity of the landscape, from mountains to mesas to volcanoes to rivers, is due to the diversity of the state’s geology. In New Mexico, the shape of the land is a result of young, dynamic and often still-active geologic processes.

A big part of this diversity includes volcanoes. Our state is an outdoor museum of volcanoes; we have examples of every type. We also have a range of volcano eruptions from 40 million years ago to as recently as 3,000 years ago. Volcanoes have produced our most iconic places. Older volcanism is responsible for Ship Rock, the Mogollon Mountains, Sierra Blanca and Cerrillos Hills State Park. Younger volcanism built the landscape of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, the cliffs of Bandelier National Monument, majestic Mount Taylor, the “desert peaks” of Organ Mountains and Desert Peaks National Monument, El Malpais National Monument, Capulin Volcano National Monument, and the rocks of Petrolyph National Monument and Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. And those are just a few!

And earthquakes? Yes, we do have earthquakes. Every year New Mexico has numerous magnitude 1 through 3 quakes and we have a probability of a magnitude 4 every decade, magnitude 5 every 20 years, and magnitude 6 every century.

So, where can you find out more about the amazing volcanoes and earthquakes of New Mexico? During the coming months, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science will be upgrading and modernizing its volcano and earthquake exhibits. The exhibits you and your children have loved — made new again.

Walk through flowing lava and use an interactive link to find out more about “New Mexico: Land of Volcanoes.” Then, track worldwide earthquakes through our new digital link to the global network in the Quaking Earth exhibit. Come see dynamic New Mexico!

Open Daily, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. $8 Adults (13–59) $7 Seniors (60+), $5 Children (3–12). Free to NM residents with ID on the first Sunday of the month and every Wednesday to NM Seniors with ID.

While you’re at the Museum of Natural History & Science, spend a few minutes in the atrium where the animatronic Bisti Beast thrills visitors with a roar every 30 minutes.

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