There are very few places you can live in the United States where nationally protected lands can surround you, and Las Cruces in one of these special places. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument practically surrounds Las Cruces, and was created to protect the area’s scenic beauty. The canyons and mountains of the monument contain unique wildlife and plants, examples of wild geologic processes, and remnants of a historic western lifestyle. The monument consists of the Organ Mountains to the east, the Robledo and Sierra de Las Uvas to the northwest, the West Potrillo Mountains, and Doña Ana Mountains to the north, providing a rugged and permanently natural border for Las Cruces.
Near Las Cruces, east of the Organ Mountains, is another one-of-a-kind natural wonder, White Sands National Monument. White Sands National Monument made up of 275-square miles of white gypsum sands creating the world largest gypsum dune field. It is billed as one of the natural wonders of the world
The Prehistoric Trackways National Monument was established near Las Cruces, and includes a major deposit of Paleozoic-era fossilized footprint megatrackways within 5,280 acres.
A few miles north of Las Cruces, you will find Fort Selden State Monument. This monument is on the National Register of Historic Places. Fort Selden a U.S Calvary fort established in 1865 along the Rio Grande River to protect settlers and travelers along the El Camino and Butterfield trails from outlaws and Apache Indian raids.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks
The newly designated Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument was established to protect the prehistoric, historic, geologic, and biologic resources of scientific interest, and includes four areas: the Organ Mountains, Desert Peaks, Potrillo Mountains, and Doña Ana Mountains. This amazing monument surrounds Las Cruces.
These areas have some of the best pedestrian trails, equestrian trails, mountain bike trails, and rock-climbing routes in the Southwest, along with some limited routes available for motorized use. The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument provides for a tremendous quality of life outdoors.
The white sands of the Tularosa Basin constitute one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, having formed over tens of thousands of years! White Sands National Monument is not far from Las Cruces, which is the second largest city in New Mexico. This National Park is made up of gypsum sand dunes that have covered nearly 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the desert plants and animals that are often seen in and around the monument.
The Prehistoric Trackways National Monument is located in the Robledo Mountains just northwest of Las Cruces, in Doña Ana County. This unique monument features rocks and fossils from the Permian age of the Late Paleozoic Era. Sediments deposited about 280 million years ago allowed the creation the spectacular Paleozoic Era fossilized footprint mega-trackways found decades ago by archaeologists at the site of the monument. The monument area contains large deposits of fossilized footprints made by reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects as well as petrified wood and prehistoric plants. This prehistoric monument is considered to feature some of the most scientifically significant Permian tracksites in the world. Today, scientists study the fossils in the monument in order to gather and provide important information about animal behavior in this preserved ancient tropical environment.
Fort Selden State Monument is located north of Las Cruces in the town of Radium Springs. This historic old west fort was established in 1865 to house the U.S. Cavalry whose role was to help bring peace to the New Mexico Territories. The adobe fort was built on the banks of the Rio Grande and housed units of the U.S. Infantry and Cavalry, and protected area settlers and travelers along the El Camino and Butterfield trails from roaming desperados and Apache Indians. Some of the cavalry units stationed at Fort Selden were black troopers known as Buffalo Soldiers. General Douglas MacArthur lived at Fort Selden while his father was commander of units at the fort in the late 1880s.