A scenic 52 minute drive from Tecumcari, NM to our next destination, another place we had been to before, Santa Rosa Lake State Park, an Army Corps of Engineers (COE) campground in Santa Rosa, NM. Check out time at Blaze In Saddle Campground was at 11 a.m. but check in time at the State Park wasn’t until 4 p.m. so we had to kill some time at a rest stop and at a fuel stop. Not a problem to be a little bit early but not okay to be four hours early! Guess we did a good job – we arrived at Santa Rosa around 2 p.m.
Maneuvering our coach into our site (A10) was a little challenging, mainly because of the bushes on the street side (driver) of the coach.
Tough getting the bushes positioned so they wouldn’t interfere with the slide outs but thanks to Rob’s most excellent driving skills, the coach was quickly in the right position. Nice being here for two nights so we had some time to explore the town.
After all tiredness generated from the work of settling in, it was time to relax outside for a bit. Oh dear, is that a mini black panther strolling to our site? Guess not, just a nosy black cat!
He (or she) and Sparky in Rob’s lap had a “who can stare without blinking” contest! Not sure who won – we’ll say Sparky since he was our favorite. Blackie seemed to like us (probably more attracted to Sparky) to the point that I had to shoo him away several times. Quickly we learned that unbeknownst to us, nasty weed pods managed to hitchhike on the bottom of our shoe soles and on our cloth, ending up inside our coach and on Sparky’s fur and paws. Walking around in bare feet ended up a very painful experience!
The next morning, we stopped at the Visitor Center where there were awesome views of the dam, the Pecos River and the surrounding landscape. Inside there were a number of displays about the wildlife in the area and the construction of the dam.
We had an interesting conversation with one of the COE employees who was telling us that the water at that time was very low and when they do have water, it is released to the farm areas. Before we left, he suggested that we drive to the historic town of Puerto de Luna.
Great chips and salsa! Chili Rellenos ($11.95) for me and Stuffed Sopapillas for Rob. At the end of the meal we were given complimentary Natillas de Leche, a Spanish custard. Everything was excellent!
Since the weather was nice although very windy with gusts up to 35 mph, it was time to explore. Off we went to the Blue Hole, a popular spot with divers (dive permit required) as well as a destination meeting site for everyone from brides to board chairs. Once known as Blue Lake, it is one of seven rare sinkhole lakes connected underground by a vast system of water. Blue Hole which is located 4600 feet above sea level is 81′ deep, 60′ in diameter, has an outflow of 3000 gallons per minute and a constant water temp of 61º. With its gorgeous, crystal clear sapphire color, the visibility is an astonishing 100’ due to the fact that the water completely renews itself every six hours.
Adjacent to the Blue Hole is the Blue Hole Dive Training and Conference Center, with locker rooms and classroom space for divers. The conference area provides 9,500 square feet of meeting space, accommodating up to 450 people, with a convenient catering kitchen for business meetings and social activities. We walked around for a bit but it was very windy, blowing sand in our faces and cold so we didn’t stay as long as we would have liked.
Taking the advice of the COE employee at the Visitor Center, after we left Blue Hole, we drove along State Route 91 to Puerta de Luna which was settled in 1848. It was dubbed “Gateway of the Moon” by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, one of the first Europeans to explore the area in search of gold, when he saw the moon rising in a gap in the mountains. A more detailed description of the history of town can be found here.
Once the region’s center of commerce and politics, it was a thriving community and was the county seat. But as of 2020, this small town had a whopping population of 141. Getting there was a pretty drive, with lots of yellow leafed trees along the Pecos River.
According to a historic marker about the town, “Billy the Kid” had many friends here so he often visited and frequented the Grzelachowski mercantile store there. He was eventually arrested by legendary New Mexico lawman Pat Garrett.
And he supposedly ate his last Christmas Eve meal here while en route to his trial in Las Vegas. Sometime after Billy the Kid was bound over for trial in Messilla, New Mexico, he escaped from jail. Lawman Pat Garrett eventually caught up with him and the Kid was killed in an exchange of gunfire near Fort Sumner.
Although it’s not a true ghost town, the ruins of Guadalupe Courthouse, an old gas station, a few abandoned homes and its captivating name manage to attract quite a few tourists. Among sight to see is the Nuestra Senora del Refugio Church which was originally constructed in 1882. Mass is still conducted daily at this historic church.
Eventually the paved road ended. Since we didn’t want to drive on a dirt road, we turned around and drove back to Santa Rosa. Along the way back to town, we stopped at the Rock Lake Hatchery where we were able to look down the raceways where we could view thousands of trout that are being reared.
We could also see several one acre water ponds where warm water fish were being raised. Across River Road, there is the Pecos River Watershed Education Center where there were some interesting displays to explore. There is also a 1/3 mile hiking trail which goes down to the river.
On our way back to our campground, we drove through Santa Rosa where we passed by the Rose of Lima Chapel and Cemetery. The name of the town, Santa Rosa, evolved from St. Rose of Lima, a chapel built in 1879 by Don Celso Baca, the founding father of Santa Rosa, to honor his mother. Baca settled in Santa Rosa (known then as Aqua Negra Chiquita, “Little Black Water”) after serving as a Captain for the Northern Army in the Civil War. His 1865 home stands directly across the street from the chapel.
We also spent some time checking out several campgrounds. Two we didn’t like – Ramblin Rose RV Park & La Loma RV Park. The only one that had any potential was the Santa Rosa Campground & RV Park which looked like it had long pull thrus. Not sure what the rates are but definitely more expensive than the $14 rate we were paying at the COE park.
Back at the campground, we prepared for our departure the next day.