Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is comprised of three geographically-separate units: Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira. The ruins preserved by this site showcase the first contacts and intersection of Puebloan and Spanish Mission cultures in the 17th century. The Monument encompasses a total of 1,077 acres in central New Mexico, not including the main visitor center, which is located in nearby Mountainair. It was established in 1980 and is administered by the National Park Service. It was designated a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association in 2016.
The ruins are located in the Estancia Basin at the foothills of the Manzano mountains. This area is primarily piñon-juniper woodland and scrub, with some riparian areas at Quarai and Abó. Although not a site primarily focused on flora and fauna, you may see the New Mexico state bird, the roadrunner, and you will definitely see at least a warning sign regarding rattlesnakes, for which this area is a natural habitat.
I found the Quarai unit of this site completely by chance while driving NM-55 in early April 2017 with RaggedyCrow. I look forward to visiting the other two sites and the visitor center the next time I’m in the area. It is around an hour’s drive from Albuquerque.
Admission to this site is free. Although the main visitor center is located in downtown Mountainair, there are smaller contact centers and picnic areas at each of the three sites. The center at Quarai includes a small interpretive area as well. Depending on the time of year, the ruins close at 5 or 6pm nightly, although there are occasionally special stargazing events organized by the Park Service.
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