Early Years of the Monument

A park ranger shows a visitor the inscriptions.
Early park visitors were taken on tours along the inscriptions.

NPS Photo

The Second Oldest Monument

Long before El Morro National Monument was founded, members of the local community had been urging for the protection of Inscription Rock and the thousands of signatures found on its base. When the Antiquities Act was signed in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt, El Morro became the second monument created largely in part due to community support.

In 1916, the National Park Service was created, and National Monuments established under the Antiquities Act were placed under their care.

Park History

In the early years of park management, living conditions were primitive. The duty station was remote, the dirt roads leading to the park were often impassible during wet or snowy weather, and there was no running water or electricity.

The first contact station for El Morro was built by hand in 1918. This small wooden structure located by the Pool not only served as a point of contact for visitors, but also served as the ranger cabin until 1938. Eventually a stone contact station would be established.

This building is still used today as portions of the El Morro National Monument Visitor Center.

Five men stand on a dirt trail looking at the camer.
The CWA helped create the first visitor trails through El Morro.

NPS Photo


The Civil Works Administration was created in 1933 as a New Deal employment initiative. The Great Depression had caused mass unemployment, and many men needed work. The CWA was a local hiring opportunity, where members of the surrounding areas were hired for manual labor projects. The CWA would eventually be replaced by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The trails within El Morro, as well as dams and arroyo diversion, were all completed by CWA crews who spent months laying the foundation for recreation with the monument.

Their work is still seen today for those visitors hiking the Headland Trail, following the groves carved across the cuesta almost 100 years ago.

Last updated: April 14, 2023

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