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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.