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Aztec | Aztec Ruins National Monument | Beclabito Dome | Bisti Wilderness | Farmington | Hogback | Salmon Ruin | Shiprock | Shiprock
Aztec named for the nearby National Monument, was founded in 1876 when portions of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation were opened for non-Indian settlement. It is the seat of San Juan County, which was created in 1887 partially as a response to the desire of the residents to be free from the political forces of Rio Arriba County.
Despites its name, this magnificent site reflects 11 th century influence from nearby Chaco Canyon rather than from the later Aztecs of Mexico. The striking masonry pueblos illustrate the classic Chaco architectural style with later Mesa Verde additions. Aztec was finally abandoned by 1300.
Colorful red rocks of Entrada Sandstone are domed up by deep seated igneous intrusions to be exposed by erosion. The same igneous activity created the Carrizo Mountains to the west. Uranium deposits in the Morrison Formation just above the Entrada created New Mexico's first uranium boom in the East Carrizos south of here in the 1950's.
The highly scenic badlands of the Bisti were created by the erosion and weathering of interbedded shale, sandstone and coal formations into unusual forms. The area is also rich in fossil floral and fauna. 3,946 acres of the Badlands were designated a Wilderness Area by Congress in 1984 to preserve their scenic and cultural value. The Wilderness is protected by federal law.
Until 1876 this area comprised part of the Jicarilla Apache Reservation. Anglo settlement quickly began at the confluence of the San Juan, Animas, and La Plata Rivers. Farmington became a ranching and farming area and, later, an important producer of oil, gas, coal, and uranium.
Steeply dipping strata define the western edge of the San Juan basin. To the west older geologic formations are exposed toward the Defiance uplift whereas basinward they are downwarped thousands of feet beneath younger rock units. Vast coal, uranium, oil and gas resources occur in the strata buried within the basin.
In the late 11th century, influence from Chaco Canyon, 45 miles south of here, began to be felt at this site and at nearby Aztec Ruins National Monument. The Chacoans abandoned this large and well-built masonry pueblo by 1150, and shortly thereafter, Mesa Verde people reoccupied it for approximately fifty years.
This area has been part of the Navajo homeland for centuries. The town of Shiprock is named for the great peak nearby, which figures importantly in Navajo legend. Early in the 20th century, Shiprock was made headquarters of the Northern Navajo Agency.
This huge volcanic neck was formed in Pliocene time, over 3,000,000 years ago. It rises 1700 feet above the surrounding plain and is famed in the legends of the Navajo as "Sa-bit-tai-e" (the rock with the wings). They hold that it was the great bird that brought them from the north.