The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument includes the Organ Mountains, the Doña Ana Mountains, the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, and the Greater Potrillo Mountains.
The Organ Mountains
The Organ Mountains encompass extremely rugged terrain with a multitude of steep-sided crevices, canyons, spires, and several perennial springs. Organ Needle is the high point in the complex, topping out at slightly under 9,000 feet in elevation. In a mere three miles to the west the elevation drops over 4,000 feet, making the Organ Mountains one of the steepest mountain ranges in the western US. Most residents and visitors to Las Cruces are impressed with the picturesque backdrop to the city provided by the towering peaks of the Organs, so named because of the steep, needle-like spires that resemble the pipes of an organ.
Two life zones and the winding Rio Grande River support diverse plant and animal species and form critical wildlife linkages with protected lands to the east and west.
The Organ Mountains are mentioned in the earliest Spanish journals, and the mountains bear evidence of long Native American use. A colorful history closely intertwined with Spanish and Mexican-American culture imbues all aspects of the Organ Mountains.
The Doña Ana Mountains
The Doña Ana Mountains are an archaeological, cultural, and recreational gem mere miles from Las Cruces. Petroglyphs have led to inclusion of the area on the National Historic Register. Extensive mountain biking, climbing, horseback riding and other recreational uses make the area particularly important to fast growing Las Cruces metropolitan area.
The Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex
The Sierra de las Uvas Mountains Complex, containing both the Robledo and Sierra de las Uvas Mountains, is located northwest of Las Cruces. Highway 26 on the north and west, I-10 on the south, and the Rio Grande on the east roughly form the boundaries of the area. An incredibly diverse range of landscape forms and habitat types are found here, from juniper-dotted volcanic mountains and dramatic limestone, igneous, and volcanic cliffs to remote caves and deep and rugged ‘box’ canyons with riparian habitats. Elevations within the area range from a low of approximately 4,000 feet near the Rio Grande to over 6,000 feet on Magdalena Peak in the Sierra de las Uvas.
This region has regional and national significance through its habitat connectivity that spans much of south-central and southwest New Mexico. 30+ archaeological sites and the presence of historic forts and the Butterfield Trail lend outstanding cultural importance to this entrancing region.
Sierra de las Uvas Mountains
This large, diverse mountain range includes historic sites including Lookout and Massacre Peaks, as well as petroglyph-lined canyons such as Valles and Broad Canyons. It is home to countless archeological sites and the most extensive record of previous Native American habitation within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks region.
Named after famed Spanish soldier Pedro Robledo, these mountains housed both Billy the Kid and Geronimo in the mid 19th century and includes the Paleozoic Trackways National Monument.
The Greater Potrillo Mountains
The Greater Potrillo Mountains are located approximately 30 miles southwest of Las Cruces. The West Potrillo Mountains are the focal point of this area, which is one of the largest relatively undisturbed stretches of Chihuahuan Desert landscape in the Southwest. The area also includes the Aden Lava Flow, Mount Riley, Cox Peak, Eagle Nest, Indian Basin, and the East Potrillo Mountains. This landscape is a broad volcanic field encompassing hundreds of cinder cones, large craters, and the shield volcano of Aden Crater that produced extensive lava flows over 10,000 years ago. Mount Riley is the highest point in the region, rising abruptly over 1,700 feet above the surrounding desert plain to an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet.
The Greater Potrillo Mountains have unparalleled significance to the large local and regional sportsmen community due to the region’s outstanding game populations of quail, mule deer, and javelina. Four different archaeological sites, including a Classic Mimbres Pueblo site with the highest known concentration of bird bones lend increased cultural significance as does the region’s connection to Pancho Villa and the Mexican Revolution. The extremely high concentration of cinder cone mountains, existing in an undisturbed state, are nationally significant as are paleontological digs near Aden Crater.
The largest Wilderness Study Area in New Mexico, the Potrillo Mountains are part of the Potrillo Volcanic Field. The Potrillo Volcanic Field has more than 150 cinder cones, five maar craters including Kilbourne and Hunts Holes, and lava flows. The Potrillo Mountains are adjacent to the Mount Riley Wilderness Study Area, as well as Mount Cox and the East Potrillo Mountains.
Designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1974, Kilbourne Hole is an exceptional globally famous mile-wide volcanic maar crater thought to be 80,000 years old. This rare geologic wonder was also used by the Apollo 12-17 missions to train astronauts for a lunar environment. This site is also near Hunt’s Hole, a smaller crater also included in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.
Aden Lava Flow and Aden Crater
Located between Kilbourne Hole and Aden Crater, the Aden Lava Flow was created from lava flowing from nearby Aden Crater. This area offers one of the best opportunities in the continental United States to view lava flows and the many unique shapes and structures created by them. The Aden Crater is a dramatic football field sized crater that lies in the northern part of the Potrillo Volcanic Field. Know for its other worldly feel created by ancient lava flows, Aden Crater also has fumeroles (volcanic vents), in which one was found to contain a deep chamber with the remains of a giant ground sloth. The sloth remains are now located in the Peabody Museum.