Welcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
This week we bring your attention to the 11,820 acre Ojito Wilderness, designated in 2005. This is a desert landscape of steep-sided mesas, box canyons, deep arroyos, and badlands with unusual hoodoos. One of the largest known dinosaurs, the Seismosaurus, was discovered with the boundaries of the Ojito Wilderness. We are highlighting the Seismosaurus Trail that takes you to the site where this magnificent fossil was discovered. Don’t expect to find those bones lying on the ground when you arrive, though you will find a pleasant and pleasing landscape if you visit. In fact, you won’t be able to tell that a dinosaur skeleton was once found here. The Seismosaurus was excavated and the site was rehabilitated to a natural state. This dinosaur is now a centerpiece display in the Jurassic Hall at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque.
Wilderness areas are places that are untrammeled, undeveloped, natural, and provide outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation or solitude. The Wilderness Act further defines wilderness areas as places that may contain features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value. In some cases, to fully realize the scientific values of wilderness, certain features must be removed so they can be studied, and these studies enhance our understanding and appreciation of the wilderness area’s values.
If the Seismosaurus specimen were left in place, the bones would not have been studied as they would have been lost to erosion. Paleontologists recognized, upon discovery, the specimen’s potential high value to science, and the decision was made to excavate it. After study in the laboratory, it was determined that this specimen is a genus and species previously unknown to science. Given the especially large size of this dinosaur, it was named Seismosaurus, meaning “earthshaker reptile.” The study of this dinosaur has led us to a better understanding of the ancient life that existed in North America approximately 150 million years ago, and to a better understanding of the values currently protected by the Ojito Wilderness.
To enjoy the Ojito Wilderness, first take a trip to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and walk beneath this remarkable animal, which is about 150 feet long (http://nmnaturalhistory.org/). Then come out to hike the Seismosaurus Trail in the Wilderness. From Bernalillo, travel on U.S. 550 about 20 miles (about 2 miles before San Ysidro) turning left onto Cabezon Road (County Road 906). Follow the left fork approximately 10 miles to an Ojito Wilderness sign. Continue approximately ¾ mile to a parking area on the left. A trail leads north, across the road, into the Wilderness, and ends at approximately one mile near the Seismosaurus site. The Seismosaurus Trail is approximately 1 mile long. The Cabezon Road is a dirt road requiring suitable clearance and will require caution during rain or snow when it may become impassible. For more information please visit: www.blm.gov/nm/ojito.
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