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sierra blanca peak

Sierra Blanca

Sierra Blanca (also called the White Mountains) is a range of volcanic mountains in Lincoln and Otero counties of south-central New Mexico. The range is about 40 miles from north to south and 20 miles wide, and is dominated by Sierra Blanca Peak, whose highest point is at . The peak is located 10 mi west-northwest of Ruidoso and 30 mi (48 km) north-northeast of Alamogordo.

Geography

The majority of the Sierra Blanca range is within the Lincoln National Forest, and part of this is protected as the White Mountain Wilderness Area. However, much of the southern half of the range, including the summit of Sierra Blanca Peak, is part of the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, and requires a permit for access. To the south, across the valley of the Rio Tularosa, lie the Sacramento Mountains. To the north is Carrizo Mountain, and to the northeast lie the Capitan Mountains. On the west side, the range rises high above the Tularosa Basin.

The range serves as the headwaters for the Rio Ruidoso, Rio Tularosa, and Rio Bonito, as well as numerous arroyos draining into the Tularosa Basin, including Nogal Arroyo at the north end of the range.

Sierra Blanca Peak is the highest point in the southern half of New Mexico, and is one of the southernmost points at which alpine ecosystems occur in the United States. Rising 8000 feet (2400 m) above the adjacent Tularosa Basin, it has the highest prominence in the state, and is the southernmost high peak in the contiguous United States (all higher peaks are farther north). The peak can be seen for many miles, particularly within the Tularosa Basin, and is visible from as far away as Sandia Crest near Albuquerque.

The eastern foothills of the Sierra Blanca range include the town of Ruidoso, and the area has a number of popular hiking and camping destinations. The ski resort located on Sierra Blanca Peak (which is located mostly within the Lincoln National Forest and managed by the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation) is called Ski Apache, and it is one of southern New Mexico's two ski resorts, the other called Ski Cloudcroft.

Volcanology

Sierra Blanca is a massive complex of volcanic rocks including pyroclastic materials, lava flows, and intrusions. An ancient and heavily eroded volcanic pile, it is the largest mid-Tertiary volcanic complex east of the Rio Grande with an estimated volume of erupted products of . Eruptions began about 38 million years ago, and extended over a 12 million year period. Most of the eruptions produced volumnious lava flows and breccias, with numerous intrusive dikes emplaced throughout the complex. The final activity produced the intrusions which form the present-day Sierra Blanca Peak. Erosion and block faulting after volcanism ceased exposed the intrusions and produced the mountain range's current form, modified somewhat by Pleistocene glaciation.

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