There’s Something Fishy about the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site


What’s an octopus doing at the Three Rivers Petroglyph site in south central New Mexico.


This, and my next post, will take us back to the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in New Mexico. I am backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains this week and will respond to comments next week. Thanks, as always, for following my blog and reading my posts. 


It’s really dry at the Three Rivers Petroglyph site in New Mexico, like desert dry, like 10 inches of rain a year dry! So what’s with the petroglyph of an octopus? It’s at least 800 miles to the nearest body of large water, the Gulf of Mexico, and a similar distance to the Pacific Ocean. I’d think it was one of strange aliens that rock artists like to portray if it weren’t for the three-masted ship with the guy in the stern also found at the Three Rivers site.

Check out this three-masted sailing ship and what appears to be a guy peering over the railing. Even the experts scratch there heads over this petroglyph.

Obviously, someone from the Jornada Tribe had traveled to distant lands and returned to share his or her experiences as rock art. Maybe several members of the tribe had travelled on such journeys. Peggy and I also found fish, a possible seal, and maybe even a whale among the petroglyphs. The frog is a bonus.

A seal perhaps.

There’s no doubt about this fish. But note the geometric patterns. I’ll return to this theme in my next blog.

This is the whale. At least that’s what I am going with. You can make out its mouth on the left and then eye, fin and fluke. This is another example  of fitting the rock art to the rock.

Slightly off subject but still associated with water, I had to put this frog somewhere! Is this one saying, “I need a hug!” ?


NEXT POST: Geometric forms among the petroglyphs of the Three Rivers Petroglyph National Recreation Site in New Mexico.











Rocks Crawling with Snakes… The Three Rivers Petroglyph Site of New Mexico

There are lots of snakes found among the rocks at Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in New Mexico— rock art snakes. This is a rattlesnake. Check out the triangular, pit viper head. Also note that the break in the rock was used by the artist to provide a 3-D effect, which was a technique used frequently by Three Rivers artists..

Panamint Rattlesnake in Death Valley.

We found his cousin in the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley. Peggy took its photo out the window of our truck. I thought it would look great coiled up with its tail buzzing and was taking my seatbelt off when Peggy did some rattling of her own, buzzing up the road, thwarting my desire to get up close and personal.


Peggy and I have returned from another backpacking trip, a little sore but fine otherwise. We travelled through a gorgeous virgin forest near our home in mountains we can see from our patio. Giant trees including Red Cedar, White Pine, Sugar Pine and Douglas Fir provided shade. It’s Big Foot country and we kept a sharp lookout. And, indeed, we may have found some proof of the big fellow’s existence! Be sure to catch my next post. But for now, back to the snakes of the Three River’s Petroglyph Site.


Bad snakes have been giving good snakes a bum rap for eons. It all started when the Biblical Eve bit into the apple she had obtained from the proverbial snake in the tree and realized that she was naked. It must have been a shocking discovery. Snakes have been pummeled, stomped, cut up, diced, crushed, shot, speared and smashed ever since.

Actually, there is no such thing as a bad snake; there are only snakes that have had a bad childhood and will bite you if you step on them, or wake them up when they are sunbathing on their favorite rock, or lollygagging in a scummy pond. They don’t really mean to kill you; it’s a waste of good venom. Normally, we are too big to eat. Although there was that huge boa that lived in the lake next to my house in Liberia…

I’ve had numerous snake encounters over the years from the rainforests of West Africa to the rattlesnake country of the American West. Believe me when I say there is nothing like stepping on a log and having it come alive with the buzz of rattlesnakes. I once set an Olympic record for the standing long jump when that happened.

The Jornada Mogollon people of the Three Rivers Petroglyph site must have had a special relationship with snakes. There are numerous snake glyphs scattered throughout the area— and these are BIG snakes with BIG heads and jaws. “The better to bite you with my dear.” I suspect the snakes were considered sacred and worshipped, which is what the nearby Navajo and Hopi people did.


Another rattler. Obviously, the artist wanted to emphasize the business part of the snake— its head.

In one place, we found several snakes slithering down the rocks, which was a bit creepy-crawly!

Rattlesnakes aren’t the only poisonous denizens of the desert recorded by the petroglyphs found at Three Rivers. There are also spiders and scorpions. There was a good reason that cowboys of the Old West always shook out their boots in the morning before putting them on. On the more benign side of the equation, there are a number of rock art lizards.

For the record, Peggy and I always shake out our outdoor shoes before putting them on as well. We’ve never found a scorpion, but spiders are common, and lizards. Peggy once wore her boots for an hour wondering why her foot had developed a toe twitch. She took it off and a lizard hit the ground— running. It still may be.

Scorpions pack a considerable wallop in their tails. It’s best to keep out of their reach.

I’m assuming that this guy is a spider, although it could use some more legs. Artistic license, perhaps? Or maybe it’s a beetle.

We’ve found petroglyphs of lizards in almost every rock art site we have visited throughout the Southwest. This one came with a crooked tail.

This is one of our local lizards that live around our house and think of our shoes as a great place to hang out. It’s my last photo of the day.


NEXT POST: A Land of Forest Giants… And Bigfoot.


Bug Eyed Alien or Shamanistic Vision… The Rock Art of the Three Rivers’ Petroglyph Site: Part 2

This is one of my favorite petroglyphs from Three Rivers. It makes me want to say, BOO! So, is it a bug-eyed alien or a shamanistic vision?


Peggy and I are still off playing (details to come later), so I am continuing to revisit earlier posts I did on the Three Rivers’ Petroglyph National Recreational Site located in south central New Mexico.

A lot of guessing takes place in determining the meaning of rock art. Present day Native American myths and rituals provide some clues. Others can be deduced from the petroglyph itself. An antelope filled full of arrows relates to hunting, but is it a record of an actual event or a hopeful prediction of the future?

Today I am featuring petroglyphs from the Three Rivers site that represent humans and gods. Some look quite alien, while others appear quite human. It’s assumed that shamanistic activities and visions were often the inspiration behind petroglyphs. Or the inspiration might be as common (and dramatic) as a woman having a baby, which is reflected in a number of Three Rivers’ petroglyphs.

This petroglyph of a man struck me as quite realistic. Does he look like anyone you know?

This fellow is a bit further out. I am assuming he is a Shaman either exorcising a demon or having a bad trip. (Since no one can be sure of the actual meaning of rock art, you are free to speculate.) The circle surrounded by dots just below his chest, is thought to represent Datura, a powerful hallucinogen.

A sad fellow, I thought at first, given his downturned mouth. But then I noted the eyes. And are those cat whiskers on his cheeks?

Okay, scary.

A petroglyph of a woman in this position is usually assumed to be having a baby. She’s even screaming, or practicing deep breathing.

Here’s another example. A little empathy, please.

Often the figures are assumed to represent gods. This one could be corn.

This final photo is to prepare you for my next post where I will feature some of the wildlife of Three Rivers. This is a rather magnificent mountain lion.






A Journey Back in Time to the Spectacular Three Rivers’ Petroglyph Site of New Mexico… Part 1

Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico.

Evening shadows, combining with a layer of clouds stretching along the Sacramento Mountains, provided an air of mystery for the Three Rivers’ Petroglyph Site of southern New Mexico. Peggy and I could hear coyotes on the hunt calling to each other in the valley below, a sound as old as humankind.


It’s tough when play gets in the way of blogging. Something has to give. Guess what? (grin) I had slated today for the beginning of my Native American rock art series. And so it shall be. But I was going to feature the trip we made a few days ago through the Lava Beds National Monument. There’s no time to produce it now; Peggy and I are on the road again. After all, we stayed home for five days. So, I am going to take you back in time to our visit of the Three Rivers’ Petroglyph Site of southern New Mexico. I know some of you traveled there with us. I think you will find the revisit worthwhile. For the rest of you, be prepared for a treat. I can’t think of a better place to begin an exploration of the rock art sites that are found scattered throughout the western United States.

Groups of petroglyphs found at Three Rivers Site, New Mexico.

Three Rivers is chock full of petroglyphs, made by ancient peoples using a rock to peck through desert varnish. Searching for rock art is like a treasure hunt. Sometimes you strike it rich and find a bunch in one location, like this. How many can you find among the rocks here?

Peggy and I have been visiting rock art sites throughout the Southwestern United States for the past 19 years. The Three Rivers’ site is one of our favorites. Some 21,000 petroglyphs featuring everything from people to bugs are spread out over 50 acres. Created by the Jornada Mogollon people of the Chihuahuan Desert, the glyphs were pecked into rock using stone tools for a period of over 500 years starting in 900 AD.

This is wide-open country, set off by dramatic mountains. Within a hundred miles of Three Rivers, Billy the Kid fought in the Lincoln County Wars, Smokey the Bear was found hidden in a tree avoiding a forest fire, bug-eyed aliens became synonymous with Roswell, and history was forever changed with the explosion of the world’s first atomic bomb.

Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico with Sacramento Mountains providing the backdrop.

Native Americans often chose cliff areas such as those on the left for their rock art. Peggy and I have spent a lot of time scrambling around on such cliffs.

I rode through the area on my bicycle as part of my ten-thousand-mile trek around North America. It’s a long way between pit stops. The remoteness of the area is reflected well in the photo above.

Native Americans often chose special sites for their rock art and it is immediately apparent that the Three Rivers site is special. The words raw beauty come to mind. Set on a ridge, the site provides commanding views of the surrounding desert and mountains. Today, I am featuring the natural beauty of the region. In my next posts, I will focus on petroglyphs of people, animals, birds, geometric designs, animal tracks, reptiles, bugs and anything else that caught the fancy of the Jornada people, and us– including a whale and a mysterious ship.

Peggy stands on the ridge next to a rock likely to hold petroglyphs. Some glyphs are immediately obvious while others are hidden. Sharp eyes are required. And you need to hike around the whole rock.

Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

A final view of the remote, mysterious area. I’m always on the lookout for UFOs!

NEXT BLOG: I will look at glyphs that feature the Jornada Mogollon people and their gods. Below is an example.

Petroglyph from Three Rivers Petroglyph site in southern New Mexico.

…An abstract geometric design with eyes. Another reason I scan the skies for aliens!