La Ventana Natural Arch in the El Malpais National Monument.

El Malpais National Conservation Area

The El Malpais National Conservation Area (NCA) was established in 1987 to protect nationally-significant geological, archaeological, ecological, cultural, scenic, scientific, and wilderness resources surrounding the Zuni-Bandera volcanic fields. El Malpais translates to "the badlands" in Spanish.

The NCA includes dramatic sandstone cliffs, canyons, La Ventana Natural Arch, Chain of Craters Back Country Byway, Joe Skeen Campground, Narrows Picnic Area, and Cebolla and West Malpais Wilderness Areas. There are many opportunities for photography, hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing within this unique NCA.

For more than 10,000 years people have interacted with the El Malpais landscape. Historic and prehistoric sites provide connections to the past. More than mere artifacts, these cultural resources are kept alive by the spiritual and physical presence of contemporary Native American groups, including the Ramah Navajo and Puebloan peoples of Acoma, Laguna, and Zuni. These tribes continue their ancestral uses of El Malpais including gathering plant materials, paying respects, and renewing ties.

El Malpais National Conservation Area Community Art Program

Artwork from the community art program at the El Malpais visitor cetner.
Artwork by Christian Bigwater displayed at the El Malpais Visitor Center as part of the community art program.

The Public Lands Interpretive Association and the Bureau of Land Management invited artists from El Malpais' surrounding areas to participate in a unique collaboration: to create a narrative connection between art and land stewardship, history, culture, and land conservation. Highlighting the stewardship, history, culture, and land conservation of El Malpais NCA and celebrating local artists in showcasing the area and its communities for generations to come. Through this project, we hope visitors to the area can enjoy art while gaining knowledge about the importance of resources of this unique area of the New Mexico Landscape.

Learn more about the artists featured through the El Malpais Community Art Program:

Christian Bigwater

Join the adventure at El Malpais with the new Junior Ranger Guide

The cover of the El Malpais Junior Ranger guide.

The El Malpais NCA Junior Ranger Guide explores the amazing history, culture, geology, and other natural resources found in El Malpais NCA. The guide has a variety of educational activities, including word games, logic puzzles, and coloring activities. Download the guide to print at home​. You can also request to have a copy mailed to you by calling the Rio Puerco Field Office at 505-761-8700. 

When the guide is completed, you can take the oath with an onsite Ranger at El Malpais NCA, become an official El Malpais Junior Ranger, and receive your badge!  If you are unable to complete the guide on site,  mail your completed booklet to the address below and we will send your patch to you! 100 Sun Ave NE, Suite 330, Albuquerque, NM 87109.

Quick Facts

Public Law

Established by Congress: December 31, 1987

Size: Approximately 249,200 acres

Contact Us

Rio Puerco Field Office
100 Sun Avenue NE
Pan American Bldg.
Suite 330
Albuquerque, NM  87109-4676
(505) 761-8700

El Malpais Ranger Station
NM Highway 117, Grants, NM 87020 

The El Malpais Ranger Station is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. For more information, please contact the NCA Outdoor Recreation Planner Jennifer Merino at 505-761-8993.

Directions to El Malpais Ranger Station:
From Interstate 40 take exit 89 (the Quemado exit) onto NM Highway 117. The BLM El Malpais Ranger Station is located 9 miles south of the exit on Highway 117.

Manager's Reports