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The Sandia Mountains (Southern Tiwa name posu gai hoo-oo, "where water slides down arroyo"[1]) are a mountain range located in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, immediately to the east of the city of Albuquerque in New Mexicoin the southwestern United States. The range is largely within the Cibola National Forest, and part of the range is protected as the Sandia Mountain Wilderness. Its highest point is Sandia Crest, 10,678 feet (3,255 m).
Sandía means watermelon in Spanish,[2] and is popularly believed to be a reference to the reddish color of the mountains at sunset.[3] Also, when viewed from the west, the profile of the mountains is a long ridge, with a thin zone of green conifers near the top, suggesting the "rind" of the watermelon. However, as Robert Julyan notes,[4] "the most likely explanation is the one believed by the Sandia Indians: the Spaniards, when they encountered the Pueblo in 1540, called it Sandia, because they thought the squash gourds growing there were watermelons, and the name Sandia soon was transferred to the mountains east of the pueblo." He also notes that the Sandia Pueblo Indians call the mountain Bien Mur, "big mountain".

The Sandia Mountains are a fault block range, on the eastern edge of the Rio Grande Rift Valley. The Sandias were uplifted in the last ten million years as part of the formation of the Rio Grande Rift. They form the eastern boundary of the Albuquerque Basin. The core of the range consists of Sandia granite, approximately 1.5 billion years old (there is also some metamorphic rock of age 1.7 billion years). This is topped by a relatively thin layer (approximately 300 feet/100 meters) of sedimentary rock (mostly limestone, and some sandstone) of Pennsylvanian age (circa 300 million years ago). The limestone contains marine fossils including crinoids, brachiopods, gastropods, horn corals, and bryozoans. However, most of the fossils are too small for the human eye to detect.[8] Potassium-feldspar (K-spar) crystals embedded within the Sandia granite give the mountains their distinct pink  color.

The Sandias encompass four different named life zones due to the large elevation change, and the resulting changes in temperature and amount of precipitation, from the base to the top. The desert grassland and savanna at the western base of the mountain (near the eastern edge of the City of Albuquerque, uphill of about Eubank   or Juan Tabo Boulevards) is part of the Upper Sonoran Zone. From 5,500 to 7,200 ft comc/alu (1,700 to 2,200 m), the Upper Sonoran Zone is found, but notable differences occur: one first finds a zone of primarily juniper, then a Piñon-Juniper-evergreen Oak zone, while a thin cove  r of black grama grass (Bouteloua eriopoda) shifts in its dominance to a less thin cover of blue grama grass (Bouteloua gracilis); some plants of Chihuahuan Desertaffinities are found in this area, including oreganillo (Aloysia wrightii), mariola (Parthenium incanum), desert marigold (Baileya spp.), and subspecies of the often-numerous Engelmann prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii). From 7,200 to 7,800 ft (2,200 to 2,400 m), in the Transition ZonePonderosa Pine dominates, and evergreen oaks change to more cold-tolerant deciduous oaks. From  7,800 to 9,800 ft (2,400 to 3,000 m), a mixture of conifers occurs in the Canadian Zone; Gambel Oak (Quercus gambelii) is at its uppermost natural range in this zone. Finally, from 9,800 ft (3,000 m) to the Sandia Crest at 10,678 ft (3,255 m), mostly on the eastern side, spruce and fir dominate the Hudsonian Zone. (All zone boundary elevations  are approximate, depending on microclimate or comc/alu aspect.) 

The Sandias contain a location notable for prehistoric archaeology: the Sandia Cave  was believed by some in the 1930s to the 1950s[11] to have been inhabited 10000 to 12000 years ago by the "Sandia Man," a cultural classification that is no longer used.[12] The cave can be accessed via a 1/2 mile trail in Las Huertas Canyon, on the northeast side of the range, near Placitas, New Mexico
Ancestral and early Pueblo peoples have lived in the Sandia Mountains area for thousands of years[citation needed]. Examples of previous  Pueblo settlements, now unoccupied, include Tijeras Pueblo and Pa'ako Pueblo, both founded around 700 years ago. Sandia Pueblo is a modern pueblo, abutting the Sandia Mountains on the northwest side of the range. Some of the foothills of the range are on Sandia Pueblo land; there have been disputes in the past between the Pueblo, the Forest Service, and private landowners over rights to various parts of the range. The people of Sandia Pueblo consider the mountains a sacred place.

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