Nature & Science

Estancia Basin
The Estancia Basin



Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, located in central New Mexico comprises 3 units: Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira with elevations ranging from 6100 to 6600 above sea level. Vegetation is predominantly pinyon-juniper woodlands and associated shrubland, including cacti. Good riparian conditions exist at Abó and Quarai.

Salinas Pueblo Missions is positioned within the Estancia Basin, east of the Manzano Mountains. In Pleistocene time the Estancia Basin held a lake. Surrounding the margins of the valley beaches, bars, and spits are distinguishable. Eventually the lake dried up and the American Indians associated with the pueblos of Salinas cultivated staple foods such as corn, beans, and squash, on the fine loamy lake deposits.

Salinas Pueblo Missions was set aside because of the importance of the cultural resources however, there is a major connecting link to the natural resources. The link is the importance of man’s adjustment to a marginal land and the man-land relationship during the past 1,000+ years of occupation.

Quarai at the Foothills of the Manzano Mountains

Hart R Schwarz

Salinas Pueblo Missions is situated in the foothills of the Manzano Mountains. The word Manzano is derived from the word "manzanas" which is Spanish for apples. It is said that the small Hispanic village and the surrounding mountains take their name for the ancient orchards here. The orchards were believed to have been planted by the Franciscan priests in the early 17th century, however, the trees have been dated no earlier than the 1800s.

Elevations in the Manzano Mountain range form 6,000 feet in the foothills to 10,098 feet on Manzano Peak. Vegetation consists of pinyon-juniper woodlands in the lower elevations to mixed conifer forests in the high country. The terrain, cut with canyons and rocky outcrops, is fairly steep and rugged.

The approximately 112,000 acres, comprising the Manzano Mountains are administered by the Mountainair Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest. The Manzanos are a long, narrow range trending north and south. The area slopes gently up from the Estancia Valley in the east to about 8,000 feet elevation and then rises abruptly to the ridgeline. The west face drops sharply into the uplands of the Rio Grande Valley.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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Mailing Address:

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
PO Box 517

Mountainair, NM 87036-0517


(505) 847-2585

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