The Ojito Wilderness is a relatively new (2005), small wilderness area of ~11,000 acres west of San Ysidro, New Mexico. It has amazing geology and is scattered with Ancestral Puebloan, Navajo and Hispanic ruins/artifacts. Cabezon Peak, an ancient volcano, is visible to the northwest. The 150 million-year-old Morrison Formation is exposed in the Ojito Wilderness. The petrified remains of plants and animals have been found there, including the Seismosaurus, at one time thought to be the longest dinosaur ever found but now classified as Diplodocus hallorum. The presence of petrified trees indicates that an ancient forest once grew there beside a flowing river. It certainly is different from that now.
I should mention that I am conflicted about the Seismosaurus site. It is like Mount Rushmore. It was clearly an ancient, sacred Native American site with petroglyphs and a small village. I am sure that even ancient cultures knew that there was something special about the giant exposed bones on the mesa. The site was discovered by non-Indians in 1979. Although it was carefully excavated starting in 1985, and yielded a spectacular, previously unknown dinosaur, the original site was definitely permanently changed.
I first visited the Ojito area on 14 Sep 1991 on a Wildflower Club trip along Route 44 (now US-550). When we reached Cabezon Road, we just went ~2.2 miles to the first yellow rock formations and looked for wildflowers. I only took two pictures but I did include them here in the historical album.
The Wildflower Club had a specific field trip to the Ojito Wilderness and Seismosaurus site on 31 May 1992. A couple of members knew the way to the Seismosaurus site and took us there. Most of the bones had been removed by then, but they were still trying not to publicize the site. There was a small caravan at the site, which was covered with a camouflage net. There were several areas on the top of the mesa that were staked out. They were either potential sites with dinosaur bones or possible sacred Indian sites. We saw the hole where the Seismosaurus bones were excavated, nearby petroglyphs, and the rock-circle ruins of small dwellings. Someone had even laid out artifacts (arrowhead and pottery sherds) on a rock at one of the dwelling sites. There was also a metate at that site. Our group did not disturb them. I believe someone said during the visit that there were 17 known sites in the Ojito with dinosaur bones, but that may have included petrified logs. The few pictures that I took are included in the historical album here.
I took a second trip to the Seismosaurus site on 15 Feb 1997. Everything looked pretty much the same as in 1992, except that the caravan and staked out areas were gone, and the metate was unfortunately missing. I did not take any pictures on this second trip. I recently retired and decided to visit the Seismosaurus site again on 20 Oct 2011. Things look different now but the Seismosaurus site is easily located. There seemed to be another excavation next to the trail on the way in (near the dwelling ruins) but I have not found it mentioned online. It had been long enough that I did not remember where the petroglyphs and dwelling ruins were located, and we did not find them. After some more research at home, we returned on 23 Oct 2011 and found the petroglyphs and three dwelling ruins. However, we still did not find the dwelling ruin in the picture from 1992. On 4 Nov 2011 I tried yet again to find this site but with no success. I am beginning to wonder if it were part of the second possible, unpublished excavation. Pictures from these three visits are included in separate albums here.
Access to the Ojito Wilderness is via Cabezon Road (CR-906) off US-550 about 2 miles south of San Ysidro. Turn west and immediately take the fork to the left, which is Cabezon Road through the Zia Pueblo land. After 4.2 miles there is a cattle guard and small parking lot where the public lands start. The White Mesa Bike Trails parking lot and trailhead are another 0.3 miles; from there, continue for 1.3 miles, and turn right (west) at the intersection with Milpas Road. The Ojito Wilderness boundary is another 3.9 miles. You will pass a pond in a rock gap (maybe dry) and wind through a canyon with cliffs and salt cedars. The parking lot for the Seismosaurus site trailhead is another 0.6 miles past the boundary sign.