Shortly after leaving Santa Fe, N.M., the Mormon Battalion picked up the Rio Grande and followed it south. After following the river for several weeks, the battalion passed a geological feature in Sierra County known as Elephant Butte. This landmark is still visible, but some of it is covered by the waters of Elephant Butte reservoir, as seen in one of the photos. The date when the battalion passed was Nov. 6, 1846.
Journals say the terrain in this region was very challenging, particularly because of vegetation that was very thorny. These shrubs tore the clothing and, frequently, the skin of the battalion members. It was here that Colonel Cooke ordered the battalion to blaze a new trail on the western side of the Rio Grande. This added greatly to the challenge of the journey.
One of the photos here shows the Rio Grande just below the Elephant Butte Dam, looking south, the direction the battalion was traveling.