It would be easy, and accurate, to call New Mexico "high and dry" and leave it at that. The lowest point in the state, in the southeastern corner, is still over 2,800 feet in elevation, higher than the highest point in at least a dozen other states. The southern Rocky Mountains extend well into New Mexico, rising above 13,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo range and sending a final afterthought above 10,000 feet, just east of Alamogordo. Volcanic activity created the mountain range -- and its aftereffects can be seen throughout the state, from Shiprock (the remaining core of a long-eroded volcano) to Capulin Volcano National Monument. Two fault lines, which created the Rio Grande Rift Valley, home to the Rio Grande, run through the center of the state, and seismic activity continues to change the face of New Mexico even today.
Although archaeologists have discovered fossils indicating that most of New Mexico was once covered by ancient seas, the surface area of the state is now quite dry. The greater portion of New Mexico receives fewer than 20 inches of precipitation annually, the bulk of that coming either as summer afternoon thunderstorms or winter snowfall. In an area of 121,666 square miles -- the fifth-largest U.S. state -- there are only 221 square miles of water. Rivers and lakes occupy less than 0.2% of the landscape. The most important source of water is the Rio Grande. It nourishes hundreds of small farms from the Pueblo country of the north to the bone-dry Chihuahuan Desert of the far south.
However, there's more water than meets the eye in New Mexico. Systems circulating beneath the earth's surface have created all sorts of beautiful and fascinating geologic formations, including the natural wonder known as Carlsbad Caverns, one of the greatest cave systems in the world. Other caves have formed throughout the state, many of which have collapsed over the centuries, creating large sinkholes. These sinkholes have since filled with water and formed beautiful lakes. Bottomless Lakes State Park, near the town of Roswell, is a good example of this type of geological activity.
Other natural wonders you'll encounter during a visit to New Mexico include red-, yellow-, and orange-hued high, flat mesas, and the 275-square-mile White Sands National Monument that contains more than 8 billion tons of pure white gypsum and is the largest field of sand dunes of this kind in the entire world. Here, mountains meet desert, and the sky is arguably bigger, bluer, and more fascinating than any other place in the country. Words can't do justice to the spectacular colors of the landscape, colors that have drawn contemporary artists from around the world for nearly a century, colors that have made Taos and Santa Fe synonymous with artists' communities. The blues, browns, greens, reds, oranges, and yellows in every imaginable variation make this land a living canvas. This is truly big sky country, where it seems you can see forever.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.