National Park Service

Southern Colorado Plateau Network (SCPN)

El Malpais National Monument (ELMA)

Entrance of Four Windows Cave<br/>(NPS photo) Ponderosa pines and blocky a'a lava<br/>(SCPN photo) Blue grama and sand dropseed grassland<br/>(SCPN photo) Cryptobiotic soil<br/>(SCPN photo) Kipuka (lava-free area surrounded by lava)<br/>(SCPN photo) Lava bench with ponderosa pines<br/>(SCPN photo) Ponderosa and pinyon pines growing on lava<br/>(SCPN photo) Inside a lava tube cave<br/>(SCPN photo) Mountain tree frog<br/>(USGS photo) Mouth of a lava tube cave<br/>(SCPN photo) Ponderosa pines with blue gramma grass understory<br/>(SCPN photo) Landscape view with ponderosa pines growing in pahoehoe<br/>lava flows (SCPN photo) Sunset over Sandstone Bluffs<br/>(NPS photo) Ponderosa pines and shrubs growing in lava<br/>(SCPN photo)

Inventory Reports

University of Wyoming Logo
Park Flora (SEINet)
NPS Logo Official El Malpais NM Website
SCPN park map
Location of El Malpais NM in the Southern Colorado Plateau Network. Click for larger image.

El Malpais National Monument encompasses 115,049 acres (46,559 ha) in west-central New Mexico, in one of the most significant volcanic areas in the U.S. It was established in 1987 to protect outstanding natural and cultural resources. Natural resources include eleven volcanoes, lava tubes and other cave systems; of particular interest are ice caves which are a repository of paleo-climatic information.

Cultural resources in the park range from artifacts and ancient dwelling sites from the Paleoindian Period, the Archaic Period, and the Ancestral Puebloan Period to historic records of tribal and Spanish settlements.

Seven major vegetation communities are found in El Malpais NM, but the most dominant types are ponderosa pine forests and pinyon-juniper woodlands.

El Malpais NM supports 10 amphibian, 208 bird, 71 mammal, 27 reptile, and over 100 invertebrate species. Water resources consist primarily of a large reservoir of subsurface water. The lava flows of El Malpais NM are contained within a closed basin and all precipitation entering the area is either used by vegetation, collects in small ponds and tinajas, or sinks into the lava flow and enters the groundwater system.

The Southern Colorado Plateau Network monitors upland vegetation and soils at El Malpais NM.

Life Zones of El Malpais National Monument

El Malpais NM ranges in elevation from 6,396 to 8,377 feet (1,950-2,554 m) and spans the Semi-Desert Grassland/Shrub Steppe, Pinyon-Juniper Woodland and Ponderosa Pine Forest life zones. The monument experiences an average annual precipitation of 10.5 inches (266 mm).

El Malpais Life Zones

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Last Updated: August 28, 2017 Contact Webmaster