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On Walkabout At: Pecos National Historical Park, New Mexico

Basic Information

  • What: Pecos National Historical Park
  • Where : Outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Cost: $3 per person over 16 years old
  • Hours:  8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the summer, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m in the winter
  • More Information: NPS website

Narrative

When I was driving to Albuquerque recently I noticed the signs just north of Santa Fe for the Pecos National Historical Park:


View Larger Map

Since I enjoy history and visiting the various National Park Service (NPS) locations around the country I decided to stop and spend a couple hours checking out the park.  I exited I-25 and then drove a few miles to the park’s visitor center:

When I arrived at the visitor center my vehicle was the only car in the parking lot.  So it appears that this NPS site doesn’t see a whole lot of visitors compared to other locations in the area.  After parking I went inside and showed the Park Ranger my National Park Pass for free admission and then stamped off another location in my National Park Passport.  Like most NPS visitor centers, the one here at Pecos NHP was quite nice and the displays well done:

What I learned from the visitor center is that around 1400 is when this pueblo was founded by various Native-Americans in the area.  The pueblo was called Cicuye and was well situated on a hill that had good fields of view, a reliable water source for farming, and a temperate climate.  This caused the pueblo to continue to grow to an estimated maximum of 2,000 people.  Here is an artists rendition of what the pueblo would have looked like:

DRAWING BY LAWRENCE ORMSBY

When the Spanish arrived in the 1500’s they subjugated the local Pueblo tribes to include Cicuye.  In 1584 here is how a Spanish Conquistador described Cicuye:

“high and narrow hill, enclosed on both sides by two streams and many trees. It has the greatest and best buildings of these provinces and is most thickly settled.” The people had “quantities of maize, cotton, beans, and squash,” and the pueblo was “enclosed and protected by a wall and large houses, and by tiers of walkways which look out on the countryside. On these they keep their offensive and defensive arms: bows, arrows, shields, spears, and war clubs.”  [NPS website]

One of the most obvious changes the Spanish made to these pueblos that can be seen all over the region is the missions they constructed that were staffed with monks to convert the local tribes to Catholicism.  Another change the Spanish brought is that they decided to call Cicuye the Pecos Pueblo.  Later the Spanish would be replaced by the Mexicans and then the Americans who used the Santa Fe Trail that passed by the Pecos Pueblo for trade.  The old Santa Fe Trail is still a major trade artery through the region though the rutted wagon trail has been replaced by the modern highway I-25.

(Roy Anderson, artist; via the Pecos National Historical Park)

Another final historical item of interest with the Pecos Pueblo is that the Civil War battle that has been called the “Gettysburg of the West” the Battle of Glorieta Pass was fought near the Pueblo from March 26 to 28, 1862.  Confederate soldiers from Texas had marched north and captured Santa Fe and were moving north to capture the goldfields of Colorado when they were met by a Union force at Glorieta Pass which is the name that was given to the pass where the Pecos Pueblo was located.  The battle was indecisive but the Union forces were successful in destroying the Confederates supply wagons that forced them to retreat back to Texas thus allowing the Union forces to recapture New Mexico.

After spending about 45 minutes reading through all the displays in the visitor center I then proceeded to go outside and walk up a paved path towards the pueblo:

The path from the visitor center to the pueblo and back is about a mile loop walk.  I had my 2 year old walking with me and she was able to walk all the way up to the pueblo.  It was however really hot out so for anyone walking up to the pueblo in the summertime I recommend wearing sunscreen and bring a small water bottle.  As we walked up the trail I spotted the remains of the old Spanish mission on top of the hill:

Once on top of the hill I could see what remained of the small rooms that once composed this thriving Native-American village:

From the ruins here is the view looking south towards the end of Glorieta Pass and the route to Santa Fe:

From the pueblo ruins I then walked over to check out the remains of the old Spanish mission:

This mission wasn’t as large as others I have seen in New Mexico, but it still would have been easily the largest structure in the village.  The Spanish deliberately made sure that their missions were the largest structures in the villages in order to impress the Native-Americans.  This particular mission was built back in 1625 which means that occasional restoration work has to be done to prevent the adobe structure from eroding any further than it already has:

Conclusion

A stop at the Pecos National Historical Park really was a nice 2 hour break on my drive to Albuquerque from Colorado.  I enjoy walking around these old dusty pueblo ruins and learning more about the people that lived there.  The Pecos National Historical Park is not as spectacular as other pueblo ruins that can be seen in the area such as Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, but definitely much more easier to access considering it is right off of I-25.  So for anyone looking for an educational driving break while driving through New Mexico definitely stop and check out the Pecos National Historical Park.

 

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