Blackwater Draw National Historic Landmark

Blackwater Draw Locality 1 is the type-site for the Clovis culture; the oldest positively defined cultural group in North America. It was discovered in 1929 and excavations began in the 1930s.

The archaeological deposits within the landmark are the result of many prehistoric activities centered around an ancient lake and spring. The visible topography of the site reflects the long period of gravel mining that primarily occurred during the 1950s and 1960s with three main pits and many large spoil piles around the property. The main visitor's trail approximates the perimeter of the lake during the Clovis period where many of the prehistoric activities were focused.

The site is located outside of town at 508 NM-467. Guests are encouraged to stop by the visitor center, walk the trails, and see the interpretive center.

Find information about the site's hours and fees here. Find directions to the site here.

Our self-guided trails are rugged and steep in areas, with an unpaved surface. We recommend you wear appropriate footwear and sun protection (sunscreen, hats). The entirety of the trail is approximately one mile in length with no modern facilities. There is a shade structure about halfway around the loop, but visitors should bring water to drink as needed. 

What to Wear: hats, sunscreen, good walking shoes.

What to Bring: Water, a camera, a walking aid, if needed.

Pets: Dogs are permitted while leashed on the trails; no dogs are allowed inside the buildings. 

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Fact #1:

Most of the bone deposits from the Blackwater Draw date to the last 14,000 years.

Fact #2:

At least 28 mammoths have been excavated at Blackwater Draw over the last 80+ years.

Fact #3:

Ice Age bison at Blackwater Draw were 20-30% larger than modern bison.

Fact #4:

The Clovis point is the oldest and most widely distributed single artifact type in North America.

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How did Blackwater Draw come to be?

13,000 years ago, ice sheets spread across much of Canada, dipping down into what is now the Midwestern U.S. and covering large swathes of New England. These ice sheets had an effect on the climate that was far-reaching, cooling the atmosphere and increasing humidity all the way to the Southern Plains and to Blackwater Draw, where a spring-fed lake supported a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Mammoth, ancient bison, giant ground sloth, saber-tooth cat, dire wolf, camel and more were all present at Blackwater Draw. These animals were not alone-discoveries made in 1929 by Ridgley Whiteman, a Clovis native, demonstrated that humans existed alongside these extinct animals at the end of the Pleistocene epoch. The discovery of Clovis pushed back archaeologists' understanding of the cultural chronology of North America by hundreds of years.

The research potential of Blackwater Draw Locality 1 is enormous: more than 80 years after its discovery the site is still contributing to our knowledge of early Americans today. The Carnegie Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Academy of Natural Sciences, National Science Foundation, United States National Museum, National Geographic Society and more than a dozen major universities either have funded or participated in research at Blackwater Draw Locality 1.

 

The site was incorporated into the National Register of Historic Places in 1961, and in 1982 was declared a National Historic Landmark.

Clovis point, discovered at the North Bank in 1963 with Mammoth IV

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Interpretive Center

Labeled on map as South Bank Excavations

The interpretive center is a visitor favorite.. This large steel structure preserves exposed archaeological deposits from the Archaic and Paleoindian kill-site allowing you to step back in time with each layer.

Stop by to see extinct megafauna such as bison, dire wolf, and camel.

To the east of this building is a smaller A-frame covering the oldest well known in North America.

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Visitor Center & Trails

Our visitor center is the first place you will stop at the site. Purchase tickets or gift shop items and get information about our trails.

Follow paths along the property to see pits where gravel was once mined to exposed layers filled with extinct megafauna and stone tools.

Keep in mind that New Mexico summer temperatures can be brutal for even the most seasoned of visitors. Bring water and take your time as you walk the property.

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Did you know that we have a virtual tour of the archaeological site?