Elephant Butte Inn Blog
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted January 27, 2013
Posted January 25, 2013
Kingston was founded along Percha Creek beneath the Black Range mountains in 1882, when prospector Jack Sheddon made a rich silver strike. Word spread, and almost overnight Kingston became a mining boom town. Despite pioneer hardships, smallpox and Apache raids, it continued to grow. The census of 1890 officially counted more than 7000 residents, making it the largest city in New Mexico Territory.
One of the west's wildest mining camps, Kingston boasted 22 saloons, 14 stores, 3 newspapers, numerous hotels and boarding houses, and an Opera House. A stage line connected Kingston to Hillsboro, Lake Valley, and the railroad at Nutt. Lillian Russell, Mark Twain, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid all visited this colorful community, known as the "gem of the Black Range." But when the Silver Panic of 1893 caused silver prices to plummet, the town rapidly folded.