chihuahua desert

borders: political and geographical meanings

The Chihuahuan Desert covers parts of Mexico and the United States (Texas, New Mexico and Arizona).  On the Mexican side, it covers the northern half of the state of Chihuahua. The Chihuahua Desert is the third largest desert of the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in North America, after the Great Basin.

The desert is mainly a rain shadow desert because the two main mountain ranges covering the desert, the Sierra Madre Occidental to the west and the Sierra Madre Oriental to the east block most moisture from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico respectively. Climatically, the desert has a dry climate with only one rainy season in the summer and smaller amounts of precipitation in early winter.  The desert is fairly young, existing for only 8000 years.

Important sites in the Chihuahua Desert :

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, located 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in the Pueblo language Keresan. The area owes its remarkable geology to layers of volcanic rock and ash deposited by pyroclastic flow  from a volcanic explosion that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago. Over time, weathering and erosion of these layers has created canyons and tent rocks. The tent rocks themselves are cones of soft pumic and tuff beneath harder carp rocks  and vary in height from a few to 30 meter.

Bandelier National Monument. The Park protects over 12 000 hectares of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities. The monument preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans of a later era in the Southwest. Most of the pueblo structures date to two eras, dating between 1150 and 1600 AD. The Monument protects Ancestral Pueblo archeological sites, a diverse and scenic landscape. Human presence in the area has been dated to over 10,000 years before present.  Permanent settlements by ancestors of the Puebloan peoples have been dated to 1150 CE; these settlers had moved closer to the rio Grande by 1550. Spanish colonial settlers arrived in the 18th century. The Pueblo Jose Montoya brought Adolph Bandolier  to visit the area in 1880. Based on documentation and research by Bandelier, there was support for preserving the area and President Woodrow Wilson signed the legislation creating the monument in 1916.