El Malpais
In the Land of Frozen Fires: A History of Occupation in El Malpais Country
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On December 31, 1987, Public Law 100-225 established El Malpais National Monument and El Malpais National Conservation Area in the State of New Mexico. The Act set aside for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations nationally significant features, such as the Grants Lava Flow, Las Ventanas Chacoan Archeological Site, Perpetual Ice Caves, and other prominent natural and cultural resources.

The bill provides for 376,000 acres--262,000 as a national conservation area managed by the Bureau of Land Management and 114,000 acres as a national monument administered by the National Park Service. Legislation designates the Masau Trail, a vehicular tour route, linking El Malpais National Monument with other major sites of antiquity in New Mexico and Arizona.

El Malpais National Monument's boundaries include lands south of Interstate 40 near Grants, the Sandstone Bluffs area on the east side of the malpais adjacent to Highway 117, and Highways 53 and 109 flank the western boundary. The National Conservation Area extends out and circumvents national monument lands on all sides except north. Much of the National Conservation Area has been designated Wilderness Area.

As a new unit of the National Park Service, El Malpais National Monument is deficient in basic data necessary for planning requirements. This report will delineate the salient history of the region and identify historical themes and events associated with the monument and conservation area. The ultimate goal is to provide managers, interpreters, and resource personnel with background material on the region's history, to reflect human existence, interaction, and awareness and appreciation of this historically rich and beautiful land.

This study could not have been completed without the assistance of so many people. To Melody Webb, former Regional Historian for the Southwest Region, I owe a gratitude of thanks for having confidence in me that I could accomplish the project and for the helpful suggestions, reviews, and editorial critiques that greatly improved this manuscript. My associates in the Southwest Regional Office, I appreciate your comments and professional advise and support.

Few research endeavors can be completed without the support of archivists and librarians. I owe a debt of gratitude to the following public libraries and their professional staffs: University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; New Mexico State University--Grants Campus; University of New Mexico--Gallup Campus; New Mexico State Records and Archive Center; Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe; Mother Whiteside Memorial Library, Grants; and Arizona Historical Society, Tucson.

Obviously, an undertaking of this magnitude involves the cooperation of many others. I wish to express my sincere thanks to Doug Eury, Superintendent of El Malpais National Monument. Doug was extremely helpful in providing me with research materials on the development of the park. In addition, he supplied the names of local residents whom I interviewed. I am grateful to the employees of the Bureau of Land Management, Grants District. Steve Fischer was indispensable. Not only did he provide helpful information, Steve took timeout from his busy schedule to escort me to some of the historic sites in the area.

Last but not least, I wish to thank the following people who live and work in the Grants area. Without their assistance, this project could not have succeeded: David and Cora Candelaria, Wilber Thigpen, Ina Elkins, Bobby Elkins, Pierre and Irene Arrossa, Marshall Goodwin, Christine Adams, and Dovie and Lewis Bright. To all, I am deeply appreciative, and give my heartfelt thanks.

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Last Updated: 10-Apr-2001