Scenic USA - New Mexico

La Ventana Arch

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La Ventana Arch - Grants, New Mexico

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     The El Malpais area, a land of volcanic wonders, covers a large section of west-central New Mexico. This wilderness area includes huge cinder cones, jagged lava fields, miles of underground lava tubes and year-round ice caves. El Malpais means "the badlands" in the Spanish language and is commonly pronounced el-mal-pie-EES. While this relatively new landscape was created from lava flows about 2000 to 3000 years ago, the Sandstone Bluffs region is a remnant of an ancient sand dune. In the Bluffs you'll find natural arches, 1930s homesteads and if you're lucky, ancient petroglyphs.
      Here in the El Malpais National Conservation Area La Ventana Trail - El Malpais National Conservation Area, Grants, New Mexico visitors will find one of the largest natural arches in the state. The La Ventana Arch, another reference to early Spanish exploration, is located just off Route 117 about 12 miles south of Grants. Although the arch area is surrounded by extensive black lava fields, the arch itself is composed of Zuni sandstone. Compressed sand dunes were eventually hardened enough to become a soft rock, easily eroded by wind, water and frost wedging. Deep cracks found in the rock allow water to penetrate. When water expands by freezing temperatures, rock fragments are forced out. Constant freeze and thaw cycles eventually form an opening in the arch face. The talus slope below the arch reminds us that the size of the arch window will continue to grow as it weathers, and some day in the distant future it will return to being sand.

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