Echo Amphitheater

Useful Information

Location: US-84, Abiquiu, New Mexico, 87510.
(36.359336, -106.528643)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: Adults USD 2.
Classification: SpeleologyErosional Cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: A=2,000 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Carson National Forest, 208 Cruz Alta Road, Taos, NM 87571, Tel: +1-575-758-6200.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Echo Amphitheater is a huge rock shelter, not a real cave, more like an overhanging rock. The rounded walls make clear that it was eroded by water flowing along the walls. This must have been long ago, when the valley was less deep, and when the climate was much wetter than today. The meandering river created a series of at least half a dozen such huge open chambers in the sandstone at this side of the valley. This is the only one which is developed with a parking lot, BBQ area, campground and trails into the huge cavern.

This site is a local favorite, schools, RV clubs, and other groups frequent the covered picnic areas and trail. But it's also a strange site and well worth a little detour. The huge cavern is spectacular, and the sound effect which gave it the name Echo Amphitheater is quite impressive. Of course such effects are well known and just physics, but nevertheless they are rare.

One day a group of Navajo executed a family of settlers above this cavern. The victims were brought to the top of the cliff and killed, their blood ran down the cliff wall and permanently stained it. Years later, a number of Navajo were in turn murdered in the same spot, once again staining the cliff wall with their draining blood. The eerie sounds in the cavern are the voices of the ghosts of the murder victims.

There actually is a reddish stain obviously from water which flows over the cliff and along the ceiling for some distance, before it falls town at a ledge. This was probably the reason for this legend, which is most definitely untrue. There are not only no documents backing the event, its also quite stupid to drag the victims to the top of the cliff for killing them. It simply makes no sense.