Badlands Photo


Formation Name(s): SAN JOSE

Rock Type(s): Conglomerate, Sandstone, Siltstone, Shale

Geologic Time Period(s): TERTIARY--EARLY EOCENE

Time of Deposition (in millions of years ago): 54 -38

Depositional Environment: River systems, flood plains, wetlands

Common Fossils Found: Petrified wood, fish scales, crocodiles, giant flightless birds, more advanced mammals (e.g., Eohippus – early precursor of horses)


The San Jose Badlands lie in the youngest and topmost San Jose formation which forms a disk at the basin center instead of a ring. This San Jose formation was deposited beginning about 54 million years ago during Eocene times when mammal evolution was really gaining momentum. The San Jose badlands are composed mainly of softer siltstone and shale. Scattered hoo doos are less numerous,larger, and more ingenious looking.Baroque textures, fractal erosion patterns, andNavajo blanket colors provide plenty of visual excitement. Mammal fossils are common and Anasazi pottery shards, arrow heads and flint chips lie scattered along the forested ridgeline. The road in follows an east-west tending spur of formations to the continental divide where the main north-south escarpment is carved into purple-banded castle turrets and elegant towers. Occasional petrified logs protrude from cliff faces and mammal fossils wash out of hillsides.

SAN JOSE BADLANDS DIRECTIONS --About 3 miles north of Cuba turn east off 550 onto State Highway 96 and continue about 12 miles north past Regina village to the junction with County Road 112. Take 112 north less than 2 miles miles and turn left or west onto dirt county road 0391. Badland formations line the route all along the north side of the road for the 3 mile drive to the parking area at the continental divide ridgeline, which is also the boundary of Santa Fe National Forest. The best hoo doo gardens and box canyons are carved into the east face of the north-south continental divide ridgeline for miles to the north of the parking pull off.

FOR MORE INFO-- Donna Dudley, Recreation specialist at the Albuquerque BLM office, 761-8700

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A photographic tour of New Mexico’s incredible San Juan Basin Badlands.