History & Culture

A homestead sits next to a lava flow
A lonely homestead lies next to a lava flow in El Malpais.


At Home in the Badlands

For centuries people have lived around and sometimes in the lava country. Ancient Indian civilizations crossed the lava flows with trail cairns and related to the landscape with stories and ceremony. Spanish empire builders detoured around it and gave it the name used today. Homesteaders settled along its edges and tried to make the desert bloom. The stories of all these people are preserved in the trail cairns, petroglyphs, wall remnants, and other fragments that remain in the backcountry.


Download In The Land of Frozen Fires (PDF) for a more in-depth look at the unique human and cultural history of El Malpais.

Last updated: April 13, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1900 E. Santa Fe Ave.
Grants, NM 87020


(505) 876-2783

Contact Us