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Rio Puerco Valley to the Laguna Pueblo

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Just a few miles west of Los Lunas you will enter the beautiful Rio Puerco Valley, home to more than 10,000 archeological sites. In the midst of this haunting landscape, most of these sites date back to the Puebloan cultures of the ancient Anasazi Indians. Also in this area are 50 volcanoes, one of largest being Cabezon peak, rising in elevation some 8,000 feet.


Some eighteen miles beyond Los Lunas on the western side of the Rio Grande River is New Mexico's Mystery Stone, also referred to as the Inscription Rock. Believe it or not, this ancient petroglyph has cast doubt on whether Christopher Columbus or the Norsemen were truly America’s first explorers.


Though people were aware of the rock when New Mexico became a territory in 1850, no one could read it. Local Indians told the owner of the land in 1871 that the rock predated their tribes coming to the area.


Cabezon Peak in Rio Puerco Valley, New Mexico

Cabezon Peak in Rio Puerco Valley, courtesy

 Mouser's Photos





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Mystery Stone in the Rio Puerco Valley, New Mexico

The site has been known as "Mystery Mountain” by the locals, but is more commonly known as "Hidden Mountain.” At the foot of this hill on the lower right side of a large mound of lava, there is a large boulder weighing an estimated 80 to 100 tons. The lava mound lies in a little canyon. Nine rows of characters are chiseled into the north face of the boulder, resembling ancient Phoenician script. 

Over the years, numerous interpretations and translations have been made, but most agree that it is an ancient version of the Ten Commandments which has also led to it being called the "Ten Commandments Rock.” Whatever the case may be, the circumstances surrounding this inscription are mysterious, giving the Mystery Stone its well-deserved name.

In 1999 Stan Fox, a linguist and Bible expert from Colchester, England, made a fresh translation of the Los Lunas Inscription, based upon photos and a careful drawing of the text.

I am Jehovah your God who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves. There must be no other gods before my face. You must not make any idol. You must not take the name of Jehovah in vain. Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Honour your father and your mother so that your days may be long in the land that Jehovah your God has given to you. You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not give a false witness against your neighbour. You must not desire the wife of your neighbour nor anything that is his.


In 2006 the first line of the inscription was destroyed by vandals.  It's origins remain controversial with some experts claiming it's a fake.


You must purchase a Recreational Access Permit from the New Mexico State Land Office to be allowed access to the land where the Mystery Stone is located.

An old and abandoned bar in Correo, New MexicoHeading west, Route 66 paralleled the railroad as it climbed the steep slope of the Rio Grande Valley and curved northwest toward Correo. Though this old town still appears on maps, there is nothing left of Correo but a lonely building that once served as bar and its towering sign. Deriving its name from the Spanish word meaning "mail” or "post office,” as the town began with a simple store with a post office in the 1920s. There was also a one room school house held in an old box car for the children of the rail road crews. Later a café, gas station and tourist cabins were added. However, today all that remains of Correo is rubble and old Route 66 fading into the desert.




Another nine miles brings you to the tiny Mesita Village along a bouncing road where grass is pushing its way through the pavement. Once you have reached this cluster of adobe houses populated by Pueblo Indians you are officially on the Laguna Reservation. As you continue the five mile journey to Laguna look for Owl’s Rock to the right. A bit further on you'll come to the notorious Deadman’s Curve, a 180 degree bend in the road to the left. You can bet this old turn scared more than one old Route 66 traveler in days past.


Laguna Pueblo


Soon you will come to the Laguna Pueblo nestled below scenic Mount Taylor. Ancestors of these Puebloan Indians are thought to have occupied these same lands since 1300 A.D.


The area surrounding the villages indicates a longer history, as archeological evidence has been dated back as far as 3000 B.C. When the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, they found an agrarian lifestyle and sophisticated system of self-governance.


The people refer to the pueblo as Ka-Waikah or Ka-waik, meaning "lake people,” because it built along a natural dammed lake in 1699. The lake has long since transitioned into meadow lands. Consisting of six villages – the Laguna, Paguate, Encinal, Mesita, Seuma, and Paraje, the pueblo houses almost 8,000 residents. Covering some 5,000 acres, it is the second largest in New Mexico.


Owl Rock New Mexico

Owl Rock just beyond Mesita, New Mexico ,

courtesy By Gone Byways


Laguna Pueblo around the turn of the century

Laguna Pueblo around the turn of the century


The Saint Joseph Mission Church was built at the same time as the pueblo and recognized by the Spanish government on July 4, 1699. In 1935, the historic mission was fully restored and today’s visitors are invited to visit the picturesque adobe mission perched atop a hill.


Up until the 1980s, mining from rich uranium field greatly enhanced the economy of the pueblo. However, after the uranium played out, they were left with their land in a disastrous state with much damage to the environment.


Today, sales of their original crafts and pottery helps to support their economy. Each community within the pueblo celebrates its own feast day and all the villages celebrate the feast of St. Joseph on March 19th and September 19th each year.  These festivals bring crowds of people to the pueblo to watch the dances and visit the many native arts and crafts booths.


The pueblo also offers excellent fishing at Paguate Reservoir. Permits are required and can be purchased by contacting the Laguna Natural Resources office. A scenic view of the pueblo can be seen on Interstate 40 at mile marker 114. The pueblo-operated Dancing Eagle Casino and Travel Center are located at mile marker 108.

Please note that photography, sketching and audio/video taping are generally not allowed on Laguna land. Ask any of the village officials if permission can be granted for a limited scope or area.


Continue your journey through a long stretch of abandoned ghost towns including Budville, Cubero, San Fidel, and McCartys.


© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated January, 2015.


Also See:


Pueblo and Indian Reservation Etiquette


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Laguna Church

 Luminaries surround the Laguna Saint Joseph Mission Church during Christmas season,

December, 2004, Kathy Weiser.

This image available for photographic prints HERE!


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