Elephant Butte Inn and Spa

Elephant Butte Inn Blog

History of Sierra County..Before it was Sierra County, Pt. 2

Posted March 22, 2013

In 1598, Don Juan de Onate led as many as 500 people into New Mexico, intent on creating a permanent colony. While native people and the Spanish had used the trails along the river for decades, Onate took his wagons through the Jornada del Muerto, establishing El Camino Real de la Tierra Adentro, a road used continuously until the railroad arrived in the 1880s. He chose to use the dry Jornada through Sierra County because the land along the river was full of deep arroyos, scree-covered escarpments, and quicksand.

The Spanish demanded tribute from the Puebloans, virtually enslaving them. The Apaches acquired Spanish horses and raided Spanish settlements. The socio-economic equilibrium of the native peoples was destroyed. By 1680, they so resented the Spanish intruders, the Puebloans revolted and forced them to retreat to Mexico. As they moved south to El Paso, the Spanish were joined by the Piro people. Except for the Apaches, Sierra County was empty of people. But the Spanish returned twelve years later, this time to stay.

Weather in Sierra County

Posted March 5, 2013

Sierra County is located in the high desert of southern New Mexico.  Our consistently sunny weather attracts visitors from across the country and around the world.  We boast sunshine 350 days a year with highs that average 95 degrees in summer to 55 degrees in December, the coolest month.  The low in December reaches an average of 28 degrees, but because of our dry desert climate, it doesn't feel as cold as more humid locations.

Due to  our monsoonal weather pattern, we receive the most rain in July and August, but even then it's extremely rare to experience a full day of rain.  Usually we'll experience a dramatic and refreshing storm, then go back to clear skies.  

Due to  our dry weather, you'll get advice from locals to drink lots of water.  It's a good idea, even when you're enjoying one of our many waterfronts!

We think you'll enjoy our weather any time of the year, but fall is especially beautiful.

 

The Dam and Power Plant

Posted February 24, 2013

Construction of Elephant Butte Dam, a project of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, began in 1911. For years there had been a need for irrigation and flood control of the Rio Grande for thousands of acres of farmland downstream in New Mexico and Texas.

Construction of the dam was very labor-intensive.  A diversion channel was built to temporarily redirect the Rio Grande while hundreds of workers used chain hoists to lower buckets of cement from an overhead cable. Nearly all the construction materials and workers were brought in by the railroad from El Paso to Engle. A 12 mile spur line was built to the eastern side of the Dam site. The workers were housed at the Dam site in a tent city under the Elephant Butte formation and along the Rio Grande downstream of the construction site.

Construction of Elephant Butte Dam lasted 5 years. Before completion of the dam the lake was already forming behind the dam. The dam's dedication ceremony was held October 16, 1916 and was attended by thousands of people who traveled by horse and buggy from all over the state. At the time it was the largest man-made dam in the country creating the largest reservoir in the world. The dam is 306 feet high, 1,674 feet long and forms a reservoir covering approximately 36,500 acres. By 1941 the reservoir was completely filled and the spillway was tested for the first time. Again, thousands of spectators gathered to witness torrents of water being released into the Rio Grande. The spillway was used again in 1942, resulting in flooding of low areas of Hot Springs. Natural weather cycles caused Elephant Butte Lake to drop very low in the 1950s and the 1970s (and now again for the last three years). In 1985 the lake was again at capacity and the spillway was reopened after being closed 43 years.

The hydroelectric power plant at the base of Elephant Butte Dam went on-line November 14, 1940, lighting the city of Hot Springs.  The power plant was built at a cost of $2.5 million and contains 3 identical generation units producing up to 115,000 volts.

Historical Background of T or C and Elephant Butte, NM.Final

Posted February 19, 2013

On March 31, 1950, the town's citizens voted 1294 to 295 to change its name from Hot Springs to Truth or Consequences.  Ralph Edwards, producer of the popular radio game show of the same name, had issued a challenge for a U.S. town to change its name in celebration of his show's 10th Anniversary.  Many answered his call, but he was inspired by the town's focus on recreation and healing.  Mr. Edwards was well-known for his dedication to the March of Dimes, American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.  The Carrie Tingley Orthopedic Hospital (now known as the New Mexico State Veterans Home), a center for rehabilitating crippled children, was of particular interest to him.

On April 1, 1950, Ralph Edwards came to T or C to lead the first Fiesta celebration.  He returned each year for 50 years, demonstrating his love and dedication to the town and its citizens.

Historical Background of T or C and Elephant Butte, NM..Pt. 2

Posted February 18, 2013

Construction of the Elephant Butte Dam (1911-1916) brought hundreds of workers to the area.  Upon completion of the dam, many settled by the hot springs floating their small cabins down the Rio Grande from the dam site.  Many of these cabins can still be seen in the Hot Springs Historic District.  The town, known as Hot Springs, thrived and grew into a well-known resort and healing center, drawing thousands of visitors.  The downtown area was filled with motels, bathhouses, clinics, bars and stores.

Historical Background of T or C, NM..Pt. 1

Posted February 12, 2013

Truth or Consequences' long history has unfolded around its hot springs.  For millenia, humans have gathered around the hot mineral water percolating up in the Rio Grande's sandy marshlands where downtown T or C now stands.  The Ancients of pre-history built pit homes and pueblo-like dwellings and farmed the surrounding area.  They gathered around the hot springs for socializing and healing.  Much more recently, the Apache roamed the region using the hot springs for gathering and healing.

In 1598, Juan de Onate and his troops moved northward through New Mexico, followed by Spanish settlers.  They built homes and villages, farming the canyons in the area.  In the 1800s, the Apache was driven out, allowing more white settlers to arrive and develop ranching and mining activities.  In T or C, the first bathhouse was built in 1882 by cowboys from the John Cross Ranch. (pictured below). More bathhouses followed.

Lake Valley, Sierra County, Finale

Posted February 10, 2013

Today, several original buildings remain in Lake Valley.  The Bureau of Land Management oversees the townsite and has set up a 45 minute walking tour.  The tour begins at the 1904 Schoolhouse (pictured below) and includes the restored St. Columbus Episcopal Chapel, some homes and railroad buildings and some mine equipment.

In addition to silver, manganese was mined for both World Wars.  The remains of this mine can be seen from the townsite in a nearby hillside.

Lake Valley, Sierra County, Part 2

Posted February 9, 2013

The last commercial stage and rail stop in the area, Lake Valley grew to 4,000 residents with 12 saloons, 3 churches, 2 newspapers, a school, stores, hotels, stamp mills and smelters.  The town was devastated by the 1893 silver panic and the 1895 fire which destroyed main street.  The post office closed in 1954 and the last resident left in 1994.  Final, part 3, tomorrow.

This photo is of The Pioneer Store in 1890.

Lake Valley, Sierra County, Part 1

Posted February 8, 2013

Lake Valley was founded in August 1878 with the discovery of silver in the area by George Lufkin who later sold out to George Daly.  Originally called Daly, the town was later named for the nearby ancient lake beds.  The settlement moved twice, and was finally established at its present site in 1882 when the Bridal Chamber Mine (in Lufkin's original claim) was discovered by blacksmith John Leavitt.  The walls of this subterranean mine were lined with silver so pure it was shipped unsmelted to the mint.  The strike produced 2.5 million ounces of pure horn silver.  One chunk, featured at the 1882 Denver Exposition, was valued at $7,000.  (Silver sold for $1.11/ounce then).  The mine manager was killed by Apaches a few days after the discovery.

Route to Lake Valley:  I-25 south 15 miles to exit 63.  West on NM Hwy 152 for 26 miles to Hillsboro.  South 17 miles on NM Hwy 27 to Lake Valley.

Kingston, Sierra County, NM...Pt. 2

Posted January 27, 2013

Today only a few original buildings remain--Percha Bank, the assay office and the stone Victorio Hotel (now private residences). The rock walls of the Black Range Lodge B&B were built in the 1930s of stones gathered from tumbled-down ruins of Pretty Sam's Casino and Monarch Saloon. This photo is of the Percha Bank Museum lobby which was built in 1884 on the main street of K...ingston. In 1890 it was the biggest bank in New Mexico. After the 1893 silver panic the bank moved to Hillsboro. The building served as Kingston's post office until it closed in 1957. Today, this stately stone building is the only fully-intact original structure in town, with its ornate lobby, teller windows and the original historic bank vault. The Percha Bank is free and open to the public. It is currently a museum and gallery.

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