The Water Supply of El Morro National Monument

Water Supply Paper 1766

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service



In the land of enchantment, between Gallup and Grants, N. Mex., near the Zuni Mountains, a huge sandstone bluff rises abruptly 200 feet above the plain. The Spaniards called it 'El Morro,' which means 'the headland' or 'bluff.' Around it are other mesas and canyons and stands of pinon and ponderosa pine. Other great rocks are nearby, but none are as popular as El Morro, and none have been as important to the traveler. For at El Morro there is water. In that country, water is scarce and precious. In the old days, travelers from Santa Fe would tell each other about the pool of clear, refreshing water at the base of the huge rock. This is the story of the great bluff, its water supply, and the rocks around it. In the late summer of 1849, an American lieutenant of the Topographical Engineers, James H. Simpson, accompanied infantry and artillery troops on a reconnaissance march from Santa Fe into the Navajo Country. On September 18, at the urging of one Mr. Lewis, an Indian trader, Lieutenant Simpson left the main party in order to see 'half an acre of inscriptions' upon a huge rock (fig. 1) . Although somewhat dubious, the Lieutenant had allowed himself to be persuaded by Lewis that the trip was worthwhile. Taking with him an artist named R. H. Kern, another man by the name of Bird, and Mr. Lewis as guide, he set off through miles of desert country, filled with huge red and white sandstone rocks, 'some of them looking like steamboats, and others presenting very much the appearance of facades of heavy Egyptian architecture'.

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Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
The Water Supply of El Morro National Monument
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
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U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
U.S. Geological Survey
v, 32 p.