Subscribe!Get all the best of On Walkabout by subscribing.

On Walkabout At: The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum

A museum in the El Paso region that my wife and I decided to check out and didn’t really have high expectations about was the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces.  We had spent the Saturday morning at the public market in downtown Las Cruces, ate lunch there, and then headed over to the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum to close out the day there.  We figured our 2 year old would enjoy looking at the animals there, but we all ended up having a good time at the museum.  The main building at the museum is enormous and looks to be only a few years old:

Considering how big the main building is there is actually very little to see inside.  Most of the museum’s displays are outside on the 47 acre lot that surrounds the building.  However, one of our favorite parts of the museum overall was the gallery inside the main building where they had various pieces of art displayed.  We are not art connoisseurs by any stretch of the imagination but we couldn’t help but be impressed by the incredible western themed art on display at the museum.  For those that are art connoisseurs this gallery may even be more impressive than it was to my wife and I.  Unfortunately pictures are not allowed to be taken in this part of the museum, but trust me the art work is incredible.  Besides the gallery there is a few informative displays about farming and ranching in southern New Mexico and then a gift shop; besides that there isn’t much to see inside.

So we headed outside where we found plenty of things to check out.  One of the first buildings we saw when we stepped outside was this blacksmith building:

On certain days of the week the museum does have a blacksmith that puts on a demonstration for visitors:

It is pretty interesting to see how every day items such as a nail were manufactured long ago by blacksmiths.  Besides the demonstration the blacksmith has a number of items such as knives on sale that visitors may find of interest to purchase.

From the blacksmith shop we walked across this bridge:

This bridge is the oldest steel highway bridge in New Mexico.  However, this is not the bridges original location.  The bridge was constructed in 1902 in Chaves county as part of a series of three bridges across the Pecos River.  The bridge remained in use until 1937 when a new highway bridge was constructed across the river due to flooding.  Thus this bridge was dismantled and the center section of the bridge was reconstructed across the Rio Hondo River between Ruidoso and Roswell.  The bridge remained in use until 1989 when it was replaced with a modern concrete bridge.  The bridge sat in unused until Lincoln County decided to donate the bridge to the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in 2007 where it now stands for hopefully many more years.  Considering this is the oldest steel highway bridge in New Mexico it got me wondering what is the oldest bridge in New Mexico?  With New Mexico’s long Spanish history I would think that the Spanish would have built some small stone bridge perhaps that survived until modern times?  Looking on the Internet I could not find an answer.  If anyone knows what the oldest bridge in New Mexico is please leave a comment and let me know.

Anyway as we crossed the bridge there was plenty of historical farm equipment on display on the other side:

Considering the long and diverse farming past in New Mexico the amount of old equipment at the museum is extensive and interesting to see how certain farm tasked were completed back in the day.  Looking at all the old equipment I couldn’t help but think how dangerous using this equipment must have been for the farmers that used it?  It just make you wonder how many limbs and lives were lost using this equipment?  Fortunately equipment has gotten much safer for farmers to use today.

Here is view from the museum looking towards the rugged Organ Mountains that provide an absolutely beautiful backdrop for the museum.  No matter how many times I see them I never get tired of looking at the Organ Mountains:

In the middle of the outdoor portion of the museum is this large barn that is home to some dairy cows:

Depending on the time of the day visitors are able to watch cows be milked.  However, at anytime visitors can see various cows meandering around outside in their pens:

My daughter had a great time looking at these large cows especially the one pictured above that kept looking right at her.  We next walked over to this large shelter that had wagons on display.  Below is an example of a typical wagon used in the Old West by settlers:

However, not all settlers used this classic wagon, instead in New Mexico some sheep farmers preferred to use this Basque Sheepwagon:

This type of wagon was brought over to New Mexico by Basque settlers from Spain.  The Basque region in Spain is cold and mountainous and thus the Basque had learned to use these wagons to follow their sheep herds around.  These wagons would prove to be ideally suited for the New Mexico climate.  Many of the early Basque colonists traveled with the Conquistador Don Juan de Onate to New Mexico in 1598 who has had a controversial, but lasting impact in the region’s history.

Looking inside the wagon I was pretty impressed by how spacious it was and how it had everything a sheepherder would need to be comfortable while following around herds of sheep.  This wagon was basically an early RV:

From the wagons we walked over to a barn to look at the various farm animals housed inside to include of course the sheep the Basque settlers would have been following around the New Mexico prairies with their wagons:

In the barn there was a number of species of sheep that are raised in New Mexico on display as well as other farm animals such as these really hairy goats:

This barn with all the farm animals in it will probably be the area most popular with kids.  My daughter loved looking at all the animals and we spent quite a bit of time here because of that.  After our daughter got tired of looking at the farm animals we then walked over to this huge barn that had horses on display inside:

Inside the barn this horse was really upset and running around and giving us the evil eye for some reason:

The horse was so aggressive that my daughter was freaked out and started to cry so we left the barn.  Ever since this incident my daughter still gets a bit scared whenever she sees a horse.  She was even scared getting on a horse carousel a few days later in Colorado Springs.  I am sure she will grow out of it over time.

After checking out all the animals and displays we concluded our day at the museum by letting our daughter spend some time in the playground:

The playground was quite nice and our daughter had a great time playing here for about 30 minutes before heading back to our car.

All in all we had a very nice afternoon at the museum.  Admission to the museum is $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens (60 and over) and $2 for children ages 5 to 17. Children under 5 and museum members are admitted free of charge. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.  So the museum is not expensive to visit and young kids will love seeing the animals.  Older kids especially teenagers may find seeing cows and other farm animals boring though.  As far as adults since I find just about any history interesting I had a good time at the museum reading all the displays and learning more about the farming past of New Mexico.  There is a golf cart tour of the museum that leaves at regular hours that I highly recommend.  The gentleman that took us around was highly informative and very pleasant to speak with.  For those not so interested in history this museum may be a bit boring, but don’t let it stop you from bringing young kids to the museum because they will have a great time.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *