A sandstone formation in  the Denazin Wilderness
image © Robert Luis Chavez

The Sentinel...
This orange colored sandstone looks even more unreal in twilight.


Photographs of a highly varied landscape adjacent to the Bisti Badlands in northwestern New Mexico. You can find colorful hoodoos, sand dunes, mesas, and even the remnents of an ancient pine forest there. The De-Na-Zin has much more vegetation than the Bisti and supports more wildlife as well some grazing animals. Some of the major washes that formed the De-Na-Zin Wilderness are the Hunter, Willow, Alamo, and De-Na-Zin.

I first stumbled upon the De-Na-Zin while looking for a shortcut from highway 550 to the Bisti (Highway 550 was recently renamed from Highway 44). I saw the sign marking the parking area and took a chance. In a stroke of luck I followed the washes and a path to what are probably some of the most spectacular formations in the De-Na-Zin. On the south side of what I call "Truck Mesa" is a concentration of improbably formed sandstone washes and hoodoos that have earned their own descriptive names: there's "The Window", "The Balls" and two areas called "The Brain Rocks".


In 1998 I had the idea to start exploring the Denazin by walking from one edge to the other. In the Year 2000 I finally made my first exploratory crossing on my birthday in May. I wanted to start easy since I had little information about the area except for USGS maps. I decided on a four mile walk from one of the northern boundaries to the main parking area on the southern boundary. The northern entrance I found two years earlier in a confusing maze of mostly unmarked oil and gas well roads. From one of the wells is a jeep trail that actually goes through some badlands before reaching the wilderness area. Fellow photographer Deb Friedrichs drove my girlfriend and I to the wilderness boundary for the start of our walk. Deb and I spent several minutes going over her drive back to camp - a couple of wrong turns could easily turn the twenty minute drive into a two hour goose chase.


Email: email me

Phone: (505) 982-4457

Robert L. Chavez
2 Torreon Place
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508