Otherworldly Landscapes in Northwest New Mexico

Otherworldly looking rock formations.

While it’s still few week out before the Dwarf Iris make their early Spring appearance (fingers-crossed), I took dive into my photo archives. With a visit to otherworldly landscapes in northwest New Mexico, I thought it would be worthy to share some of this unique photo imagery.

I had seen photos of the bizarre nature of the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area. Thus my curiosity was perked. So prior to moving back to CO from NM a few years back, a road-trip was on the itinerary. The destination was Bisti. Still new to my mirrorless camera, I wanted to explore. 

The time of year was early fall – so thankfully not too hot. I suspect given the desolate nature of this place it must roast in the heat of summer! While the time of year was nice, the time of day could have been better. Given the photos I’d seen online, sunrise and sunset must be pretty amazing to photograph this bizarre landscape.

Farmington was the hub for this road trip. This worked out well as the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness access is approximately 43 miles south of Farmington on Highway 371.

Rock Formations Much like a Lunar Landscape

Undulation rock formations within Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area.
Undulating rock formations in Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness.

As noted, the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is “a rolling landscape of badlands which offers some of the most unusual scenery found in the Four Corners Region. And “offers roughly 60 square miles of remote badlands and some of the most unusual scenery in the world.”

Given the experience, the unique nature of these rock formations is truly otherworldly.

Walking around this bizarre landscape you feel like you’re on another planet or in a sci-fi movie. A set deign for an episode of Star Trek comes to mind too.


More Interesting Facts about the area:
“The Bisti (pronounced bis-tie) was once a coastal swamp of an inland sea; and was home to many large trees, reptiles, dinosaurs, and primitive mammals. What visitors see today is the preserved record of this pre-historic swamp that is now a true desert wilderness.”

Unusual rock formations within Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area.
Unusual rock formations within the Bisti Wilderness area.

An excerpt from: https://www.blm.gov/visit/bisti-de-na-zin-wilderness:
“Time and natural elements have etched a fantasy world of strange rock formations made of interbedded sandstone, shale, mudstone, coal, and silt. The weathering of the sandstone forms hoodoos – weathered rock in the form of pinnacles, spires, cap rocks, and other unusual forms. Fossils occur in this sedimentary landform.”

Hoodoo rock formation within Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area
A hoodoo rock formation within Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area.

Imagine 60-85 million years ago it was tropical forest where dinosaurs roamed along with reptiles specific to the area and found no where else. We’re talking an ancient environment with an interior seaway that went through it. Given it’s desolate nature today, it’s hard to envision how it once flourished!

Ancient Petrified Wood

This was my first encounter with petrified wood and I was fascinated. Learning that this area was once a tropical rain forest, it’s amazing these fragments still exist. The landscape is filled with washes – which I suspect can be ripe for flash floods given a heavy rain storm. So these petrified tree fragments may have made a journey to their current resting place in the sand.

Seeing them up close, the textures alone are incredible and tell a story of their history…

Petrified wood lying in sandy wash.
Petrified wood from an ancient fallen tree resting in a sandy wash.
Section of petrified wood close-up.
Section of petrified wood close-up.

Patterns Galore with Cracked Mud Mosaics

Mosaic-like textured pattern formed as mud cracks.
Mosaic-like textured surface left behind after rain.

This bizarre landscape with all the strange rock formations will have your mind wandering. Looking out and around at this vast alien-looking landscape is truly incredible. Think sci-fi movie for sure.

But one does not want to miss looking down as well. There’s more eye-candy to take in. There were all kinds of patterns and textures too!

Rains had clearly left their mark in another manner. Instead of rock erosion there were these mosaic-like patterns left on the surface from cracked mud. These cracked-clay patterns made me think of stained glass – another favorite of mine.

Who knows when this area last saw rain given its parched nature? But it certainly added to the visual experience.

Mosaic-like pattern from mud cracks.
Mosaic-like pattern from mud cracks.

Was it Worth the Visit?

I’d have to say absolutely!! It was totally worth it to experience these otherworldly landscapes. Looking up, down or around there was something unique to photograph!

I’d love to make a return visit to the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area at some point. Although the next time around I’d likely hire a guide as it’s easy to get disoriented. Being that it’s a true wilderness area there are no marked trails so let the hiker beware! A GPS or compass would be highly advised. And lots of water too 🙂

Aztec Ruins – Also Worth a Checking Out!

Ancient ancestral Puebloan stone ruins, Aztec, NM
Ancestral Puebloan stone ruins, Aztec, NM

For the record, Bisti was not the only destination for this trip – but also included a visit to the The Aztec Ruins National Monument. It’s about 12 miles northeast of Farmington so not far at all. It’s definitely worth checking out if you find yourself find the area.

The actual complex is quite large with many different structures which you can wander through. It’s impressive to see this architectural history up close.

“Aztec Ruins National Monument was designated a World Heritage site in 1987 as part of Chaco Culture World Heritage site because it preserves important Pueblo architectural and engineering achievements.”

This ruins were occupied by the ancestral Pueblo people until 1300 AD.


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