Black Mesa is found on six adjacent United States Geological Survey (USGS) 7.5 Minute (1:24,000) topographic maps (Dennis Canyon, Furnish Canyon West, Furnish Canyon East, Wedding Cake Butte, Goodson School, and Kenton).
The visual and map view appearance of Black Mesa is as an "inverted valley" because erosion has removed the relatively soft sedimentary strata from either side of the resistant Raton basalt of the lava which originally had occupied and filled a river valley. The erupting lava filled a stream channel in the Pliocene age Ogallala Formation. During the millions of years since the eruption, the adjacent rock of the Ogallala and older formations have been removed leaving the valley filling basalt perched atop a long ridge. Strata exposed along the mesa below the basalt and Ogallala include the Cretaceous Dakota Sandstone and the Jurassic Morrison Formation.
Abundant dinosaur fossils have been recovered from the Triassic and Jurassic strata in the area and a dinosaur trackway is located in Carrizo Creek to the north of the mesa.
It is home to Black Mesa Nature Preserve.