Lava Flow

(Carrizozo NM)
Valley of Fires is about four miles west of town on US-380. About 1700 years ago, molten lava began spewing up out of the ground, and continued for 30 years. It flowed southward into the Tularosa Basin eventually spreading 5 miles wide and 40 miles long. A native legend says the area burned all the time, hence the name.

Pile of lava rock

Lava at Valley of Fires


Today, there is a BLM campground on a ridge of land that did not get covered by the lava. It’s a nice park overlooking the lava flow. There’s a visitor center and gift shop, a hilltop observation point, and a paved 3/4 mile loop trail that goes out onto the lava bed. Interpretive signs appear every so often to explain the geology or feature at that point.

Walkway, lava, bushes

Trail onto the lava beds

Cacti, lava, brush

Various plants thrive on the lava

Wind blown sand and rain settles into the crevices, creating an environment that supports vegetation and wildlife better than the surrounding desert. Mule deer, coyotes, bobcat, Barbary sheep, owls, eagles, vultures, grasses, sotol, cholla, and juniper are examples. Some species have become darker to blend in with the black rocks. I didn’t see any critters while there though.

Slabs of ropy lava

Rope lava off the trail

Cavities in the lava flow

Cavern in the lava

There were plenty of the usual desert plants, as well as trees, like the four hundred year old Juniper tree. At one spot, they let you walk out onto the lava. Care must be taken to avoid falling into one of the caverns.

Gnarly old tree

Ancient Juniper tree

I stayed for two nights in a site overlooking the lava flow. Actually, I think it can be seen from all of the sites. A camper I met at Oliver Lee was there also. My plans called for meeting an RV friend in the next town for lunch. So, I headed out after a short visit.

Camp: Valley of Fires Recreation Area – BLM
Scene: Desert, lava rocks, trail

8 Responses to Lava Flow

  1. J. RICHARD SECOR February 27, 2014 at 2:52 am #

    Nice photos of the area

    • Pleinguy February 27, 2014 at 6:09 am #

      Thanks Dick. I tried to show representative shots of the area.

  2. Gypsy February 27, 2014 at 4:16 am #

    The only thing about volcanic soil is that it gets into everything! Shoes, campers, vehicles, etc.

    • Pleinguy February 27, 2014 at 6:08 am #

      Not much soil there, mostly just lava rocks. Will it be as you describe at Lassen NF?

  3. Dragonfly February 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Nice pictures once again. I look forward to traveling with you and look for your new postings from my cold Ohio.

    • Pleinguy February 27, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

      Thanks for the compliment on the photos. Hope the your weather there improves. Appreciate you following my adventures.

  4. RiverCat March 1, 2014 at 1:58 am #

    Like the featured painting. So are you auctioning or selling your paintings through your blog yet?

    • Pleinguy March 1, 2014 at 2:14 am #

      I appreciate you saying that RiverCat. Yes, I am selling the paintings; click on the image to see more paintings. Actually, I sold another one just this week.

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