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Blackwater Draw
(Anderson Basin)
BWD logo.jpg
ENMU museum and archaeological logo
Blackwater Draw is located in the United States
Blackwater Draw
Location in the United States
Nearest city Clovis and Portales New Mexico
Area 3,200 acres (1,300 ha)
NRHP reference No. 66000483
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966
Designated NHLD January 20, 1961

Blackwater Draw is an intermittent stream channel about 140 km (87 mi) long, with headwaters in Roosevelt County, New Mexico, about 18 km (11 mi) southwest of Clovis, New Mexico, and flows southeastward across the Llano Estacado toward the city of Lubbock, Texas, where it joins Yellow House Draw to form Yellow House Canyon at the head of the North Fork Double Mountain Fork Brazos River. It stretches across eastern Roosevelt County, New Mexico, and Bailey, Lamb, Hale, and Lubbock Counties of West Texas and drains an area of 1,560 sq mi (4,040 km2).


Blackwater Draw contains an important archaeological site that was first recognized in 1929 by Ridgley Whiteman of Clovis, New Mexico. Blackwater Locality No. 1 (29RV2; LA3324) is the type-site of the Clovis culture. The first large-scale excavation occurred in 1932, though local residents had been collecting bone and lithic materials for decades. Evidence of "fluted" points, spearheads now known as Clovis points (a New World invention) and other stone and bone weapons, tools, and processing implements were found at the archaeological site. The Clovis points were lanceolate and often, though not always, longer than Folsom points. The Clovis-age artifacts are in association with the remains of extinct Late Pleistocene megafauna, including mammoth, camel, horse, bison, saber-toothed cat, sloths, and dire wolf that were hunted by the early peoples who visited the site. Generations of some of the earliest New World inhabitants hunted and camped at Blackwater Draw, creating stratified levels of archaeological remains from many different time periods, including Clovis, Folsom, Midland, Agate Basin, and various Archaic period occupants. Clovis chipped stone technology is currently one of the oldest and most widespread chipped stone technologies recognized in the New World; radiocarbon dates on sediment from the Clovis layers at Blackwater Draw average around 11,290 years before the present. Two of the projectile points from Blackwater Draw were used as the type specimens to define Clovis chipped stone technology in the 1930s.

The archaeological site is known for its well-defined and dated stratigraphic horizons that exhibit numerous cultural sequences. The sequences begin with the some of the earlier New World peoples and continue through the southwestern archaic, and into the historic period. Investigations at Blackwater Draw have recovered protein residue on Clovis weapons, indicating their use as hunting and possibly butchering tools on extinct Pleistocene animals. Towards the end of the Pleistocene period, the climate began to change, which brought warmer and drier weather, causing the water flow in the region to dramatically decrease. This decrease caused small seasonal lake basins called playas to form. These areas became popular hunting locations for early North Americans.

Since its discovery, the Blackwater Locality No. 1 site has been a focal point for scientific investigations by academic institutions and organizations from across the country. 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. Eastern New Mexico University owns and manages the excavations and visitations at the site.

The 3,200-acre (1,300 ha) Anderson Basin district around Blackwater Draw in Roosevelt County, near Clovis and Portales was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and incorporated into the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

Blackwater Draw Museum

The original Blackwater Draw Museum was first opened to the public in 1969, at 42987 Highway 70, Clovis, New Mexico primarily to display artifacts uncovered at the Blackwater Locality No. 1 site. The artifacts and displays illustrated life at the site during the Clovis period (over 13,000 years ago) through the recent historic period. In 2017, the museum moved onto the Eastern New Mexico University campus, and expanded its focus to incorporate local history, as well as archaeology on a broad scale. Exhibits now include descriptions of archaeological work, different archaeological sites, cultural complexes, and scientific methods, among other topics. As of August 2017, Blackwater Draw is under the direction of Dr. Brendon Asher of ENMU in Portales.

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