Zuni Mountains

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The Zuni Mountains (Navajo:Naasht'ézhí Dził or Ńdíshchííʼ Ląʼí[1]) are a mountain range located mainly in Cibola County of northwestern New Mexico, with a small portion extending into McKinley County.[2] The range is located largely in the Cibola National Forest,[2] lying south of Interstate 40 from southeast of Gallup to southwest of Grants. The range is about sixty miles (97 km) long and forty miles (64 km) wide.[3] The highest point is Mount Sedgwick, 9,256 feet (2,821 m); elevations in the range go down to 6,400 feet (1,950 m).[3]

Zuni Mountains in 1908


The Zuni Mountains are located at 35°10′4″N 108°19′0″W / 35.16778°N 108.31667°W / 35.16778; -108.31667Coordinates: 35°10′4″N 108°19′0″W / 35.16778°N 108.31667°W / 35.16778; -108.31667, surrounded by the Zuni Indian Reservation, the Ramah Navajo Indian Reservation, and El Morro National Monument to the southwest, El Malpais National Monument to the south, Acoma Pueblo to the east, and the Navajo Nation to the north. The towns of Grants, Gallup, and Ramah are located norteast, northwest, and southwest of the range, respecitvely. The Zuni Mountains sit on the Continental Divide and form part of the southeastern edge of the Colorado Plateau.


The history of the range includes ancient and continuing use of the mountains by local native peoples, including the Zuni, Acoma, and Navajo; extensive logging in the early half of the 20th century; and agriculture and mining (including copper and fluorspar) in the mid-20th century.[3]


The Zuni Mountains form a northwest-southeast trending uplift with a core of Precambrian granite and metamorphic rocks, surrounded by Late Permian and Triassic to Jurassic strata. A total of 20,000 ft (6,000 m) of previously overlying layers of Cretaceous and older sedimentary rocks have been eroded away from the highest part of the range, but appear in outlying areas to the west and to the northeast in San Juan Basin. Precambrian rocks in the range were uplifted during the Ancestral Rocky Mountains orogeny as part of the Zuni-Defiance Uplift in the Pennsylvanian Period.[4] The current physiographic expression of the range is the result of uplift during the Cretaceous–Paleogene Laramide Orogeny approximately 80 to 40 million years ago.


  1. ^ Wilson, A Navajo Place Names Guilford, CT: Audio-Forum, 1995
  2. ^ a b New Mexico Atlas and Gazetteer, Second Edition, DeLorme Mapping, 2000.
  3. ^ a b c Butterfield, Mike, and Greene, Peter, Mike Butterfield's Guide to the Mountains of New Mexico, New Mexico Magazine Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-937206-88-1
  4. ^ Halka Chronic, Roadside Geology of New Mexico, Mountain Press, 1987, ISBN 0-87842-209-9, p. 34, p. 75.

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