Boulder Stack on Mescalero IR

  A boulder stack on the Mescalero IR. Photo by Dennis Phol (Business owner from Colorado), taken during the BFRO Expedition, January 2005, in southern New Mexico.

Pictured on the left, Keith Blanchard (Fence contractor from Montana), in back, Roy Cowan (Retired phone company employee from California

Who stacks heavy boulders?

If you can direct us to some previously documented, ancient or modern human activity, that involved arranging 100+ pound boulders like this ... please let us know.

These boulder stacks are found in a few uninhabited parts of the Mescalero IR. In some places they are found in clusters -- several stacks built near each other.

Similar stacks are found in the Pacific Northwest.

For some time it was thought they might be associated with sasquatches, because sightings often occur in areas where stacks are found.

One sighting from the Northwest drew a direct connection: A sasquatch was seen tearing apart a boulder stack and catching ground squirrels hiding among the gaps. The story made some wonder if the stacks were put together for that purpose -- to attract ground squirrels, which make nests in gaps among boulders.

If you stack up some heavy boulders in a forest, and you use the gaps between the boulders to form some natural looking small chambers, and you leave that stack alone for some time, ground squirrels will eventually make a nest inside, or simply learn to hide there. It's pretty reliable, if there are ground squirrels in that ecosystem.

Gaps among boulders are prefered by many types of small mammals because they are usually impenetrable to four-legged predators.

If the boulders are big, but not too big, and they're stacked just right, and there are squirrels hiding or nesting inside, you can easily run up and crush at least some of the squirrels instantly by letting the roof collapse onto the nest chamber.

Squished squirrels don't run away.

If you like to gobble squirrels, but you don't like to chase them, this is one nicely efficient, low-energy way to harvest them.

The constructor only needs to create the boulder stack once, then collapse it and reassemble it as necessary.

There could be alternate explanations for these mysterious boulder stacks, but we can eliminate a few for this stack on the Mescalero IR:

1) It's not a natural formation.

The boulders are different types of rock, carried from different places. They were undoubtedly arranged by something(s) with arms and hands, and we could barely lift some of the boulders.

2) It's not a grave.

Although it's hard to see in the photo, the stack was placed on a solid rock outcropping that skims the surface there. There's no way to make a grave there. It's solid granite. The boulders are stacked on a protrusion of this solid rock surface.

Placing it on solid rock allows it be to disassembled to the floor so nothing can get away through tunnels in the dirt.

3) It's not a hiker cairn or monument.

Hikers will sometimes stack up rocks (not boulders) at the peaks of mountains, and sometimes at junctions along trails. The purpose is to create a monument or landmark at that spot for others to notice.

There would have been no need to find and carry 100+ pound boulders to this spot in order to make a stack that would have been noticeable to passersby. It would be much quicker and easier to make an adequately sturdy monument with football-size stones.

There are no non-tribal hikers coming onto the reservation anyway. Tribal members do go hiking, especially in Spring, when they are looking for shed elk antlers, but they don't need monuments or cairns to mark their trails. They know where they are going.

4) It's not a boundary marker for an old homestead.

It's deep in the heart of the Apache stronghold, not far from a main route to the main village. No white settlers or homesteaders ever tried to settle here. The area has been inhabited and defended by Apaches since long before Columbus. There was no period in history when the native population had been moved out and temporarily replaced by white settlers. That happened in some other parts of the country, but not here.

Like most other native populations, Apaches did not sub-divide their own land. Their land was communally owned and communally utilized (and still is for the most part). The partitioning of some parcels for homes for tribal members is a recent practice.

Locals said the land around this boulder stack has never been assigned as a parcel to a tribal member. Its status has remained unchanged throughout history. It was always communal, tribal hunting grounds.

The historical continuity of the location eliminates the possibility that someone would have put a property boundary marker here at any time in the past.

5) It wasn't made by the Apaches.

We asked many tribal members if they knew the origin and purpose of these boulders stacks. No one could connect them to a native practice, ancient or modern.

Some who sought answers from elders in the past were told that they were not connected with the ancient indian tribes (Anasazi), or the Apaches. There was no explanation offered for their origin, but at least a few grandparents said the stacks should be avoided and not touched.

Cultural memory extends back a long way here. If there were any practical, useful purposes for stacking boulders like this, those purposes would not have been completely forgotten.

Tribal members occassionally stumble across boulder stacks and ask about them among other tribal members. The recurring questions about them would have kept the story going, if there was one. Had the stacks been connected to humans there would have been an explanation, or at least a story, or a legend, about their use or significance.

Some areas on the reservation where large rocks were moved and arranged for ancient symbolic or ceremonial purposes, are distinctly different from these simple boulder stacks. The Anasazi rock arrangements are more elaborate, and they are never in isolation.

If there's any ceremonial rock arrangments at all, the ground is always made flat and apparently prepared for a crowd, or a least a decent size encampment. Tribal members know what those look like.

During the Mescalero expedition we heard about this one accessible boulder stack and wanted to photograph it. We were also curious to see if it had cavities wherein rodents had made a nest.

We didn't know if there were any squirrels inside as we took it apart. We had to be careful as we disassembled it, so as not to squish anything that might be in there.

Inside there was indeed a pocket filled with the bedding for either ground squirrels or chipmunks. Nuts and small pine cones were also stored inside by the rodents.

No rodents were inside at the time.

We wanted to see more of these stacks, but the other areas where people said we'd find more were inaccessible due to weather-affected road conditions (snow and mud).

Keep an eye peeled for stacks of boulders, and please photograph them and GPS them if you find some.

We'll be looking for more on upcoming expeditions.

Return to Mescalero/Ruidoso Expediton Page

  Copyright © 2020