The Story of New Mexico: The Mesa de Cuba Badlands


Last November, we visited the Mesa de Cuba Badlands. The occasion was another tour with the Story of New Mexico, a program offered by the Department of Continuing Education at the University of New Mexico (UNM).

The Mesa de Cuba Badlands are located approximately two hours from Albuquerque in northwestern New Mexico (in Sandoval County) southwest of the village of Cuba. They are often considered one of the nine San Juan Basin Badlands. These badlands lie along the base of the Mesa de Cuba, which stretches for 10 miles north to south.

We left Albuquerque on a cold, cloudy fall morning. We drove for almost two hours, until we reached the turn-off onto an unmaintained, but passable, dirt road. A short distance and mere minutes later, we had arrived.  Fortunately, the weather had improved during our drive and we were graced with beautiful skies, a gentle breeze, and moderate temperatures.

We set off to explore the badlands, which wind along the eroded wall of the Mesa de Cuba. In some places, the mesa towered hundreds of feet above us. The washes (canyons) twisted and turned leading from the plain deep into the mesa. The terrain varied from easy walking on sandy soils at the bottoms of the washes to scrambles over tumbled rock. The route was lined with petrified wood and car-sized to house-sized boulders. Unlike the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah badlands, there was lots of vegetation; primarily pinon and juniper. Every canyon seemed to contain some new, exotic formation. Our guide, Michael Richie, set a quick pace forcing us to “shoot on the run.”

After several hours and many miles, we returned to our vehicles tired, but satisfied. As we made the long drive back to Albuquerque, we looked forward to our next and final tour of the year: the Ojito Badlands.

We have posted a gallery of photos from the tour: The Mesa de Cuba Badlands. Enjoy!

This entry was posted in The Story of New Mexico.