Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dry Cimmaron

Contact: Chamber of Commerce

The trail along the Cimarron River was one of the routes west for wagon trains of early settlers. Often, the river was dry, and wagon masters would cross the river without realizing they had been there. The risk of encounters with plains Indians, coupled with the lack of drinking water, made the journey hazardous at best. Another danger the settlers encountered during their journey was that of thunderstorms. Wagons needed to be covered to protect contents, thunder and lighting would cause stampedes of horses and cattle, streams would flood, and wagon wheels would bog down in deep mud.

Step back in history by taking the Dry Cimarron Scenic Drive in Union and Colfax counties. This trip may be taken in one pack-filled day or two leisurely days. This is an excellent trip to take with children, with many ingredients to make the trip educational, fun, and moderately priced. A child can see actual Santa Fe Trail wagon ruts, wander through an old mining camp, see dinosaur tracks and walk into the crater of a volcano for around $20!

Ten miles from Raton, in Colfax County, is the Sugarite Canyon State Park. Start your historical journey by pausing near the park entrance to view the old buildings and rock foundation -- the remains of the Sugarite Coal Camp, which was in operation between 1910 and 1941. At its peak, the camp population approached 1,000, many of whom were European and Far Eastern immigrants. Miners relied on mules to pull carts laden with coal out from the depths of the Sugarite Mines. A scenic hike through the camp ruins glimpse of community life of these miners. Continue into Sugarite Canyon State Park to Lake Maloya and Lake Alice to explore the ruins of abandoned coal camps as well as hike the park's numerous trails, or fish from shore or from electric-powered boats.

East on Hwy 72 in the Yankee area, take time to experience grassy meadows and local wildlife in the solitude of nature. Be aware that as early settlers moved along the trails west, that the "sea of grass" was so tall and thick that at times it was necessary to resort to navigate by means of compass! Give children a compass and ask them to navigate the trip.

Folsom Falls is a natural spring-fed waterfall on the Dry Cimarron River. It is located four miles northeast of Folsom, New Mexico, on Hwy 456. It is a favorite fishing hole and picnic grounds. Services available in Folsom include a restaurant, post office, public telephone. The Folsom Museum, with its western memorabilia and information about ancient Folsom Man, is especially a hit with children.

At Toll-gate Canyon Charles Goodnight trailed many herds of cattle from Texas to Wyoming from 1866 to 1869. He thought the toll was too high to go through Raton Pass, and found another pass to travel. It came north from the Canadian River toward Capulin Crater, went west and dropped down to the Dry Cimarron about 1.5 miles west of Folsom, the Picketwire River in Colorado and on to Wyoming. Trinchera Pass was an easier grade than Raton Pass and free of tolls. This became known as the Goodnight Trail (1867-76).

Continue east on NM456, crossing the Dry Cimarron River several times. At Travessier, is a picturesque overlook, which is the entrance into the Dry Cimarron Valley. On the north side you will see a particular colored sandstone formation that has the appearance of a battleship, like the "Maine." On the north side of the route you will see "Wedding Cake", a round mound rising about 300 feet above the valley floor, with its grass covered slope and red, white and brown layers of sandy rock is aptly named because it appears to be a large layered cake. In early days, many couples exchanged wedding vows atop this geographic formation. The Dry Cimarron Valley boasts a number of unusual works of nature such as "Battleship". Don't tell children the names - see if they can guess, or come up with their own names for formations!

Just before the Oklahoma border, turn right (south) on Hwy 406 towards McNees Crossing. A state historic sign sits in the actual "ruts" of the Santa Fe Trail. A short distance to the north is a gate (close it). To the east is a windmill and nearby is a small marker erected in 1921 on the 90th anniversary of the first celebration of the Fourth of July in what is now New Mexico. The trail crosses the North Canadian River, which is also called "Corrumpa Creek" by people who live in the area. The crossing is named for a young scout of an east-bound caravan who was killed in the autumn of 1828 by natives.

Continue Your Trip: Portions of the Dry Cimarron Scenic Drive continue into Colorado and Oklahoma.