Mining in New Mexico / Turquoise Mines of Cerrillos

Today, there are unique hiking trails opened to tourists in the Cerrillos New Mexico area that passes many of these historic mines. The Cerrillos Hills Historic Park which is on the northern edge of Cerrillos is a permanent landmark commemorating the mining in New Mexico that once dominated the area. This state park is a day use facility that offers five miles of trails for hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers. These trails offer safe access to dozens of mines from the 1800’s. The old town of Cerrillos is located on the Turquoise Trail which is one of New Mexico’s most scenic and popular Byways. Also on the Turquoise Trails are the old mining towns of Madrid and Golden. When you’re hiking the trails in the park you’ll enjoy some great vistas in all directions. Mountains, canyons and desert views abound.

hiking trails at cerrillos new mexico

Hiking Trail at Cerrillos Hills Historic Park

When the Spaniards explored the southwest, they sent back to Spain many of the minerals found in the region. For whatever reason, turquoise was not a gem that was famously attractive to the Spaniards even though the native populations were mining it doe centuries before. The boom for turquoise mining in New Mexico appeared around 1879-1880. Part of the reason for this was that at about this time, the turquoise mining that had long gone on in Persia was starting to play out. The declining production from Persia coinciding with the added demand from the U.S. made turquoise prices jump. This combination meant quite profitable mining in the Cerrillos Hills area. The turquoise mines of Cerrillos held a vast deposit of the mineral.

turquoise mine

Closed off vertical shaft mine

An added boost for southwest American turquoise came in the 1880’s when the railroad, most notably the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe reached into Santa Fe and beyond. This brought many tourists with money to spend and the turquoise was a sought after quantity. Probably the best example of this was found in Santa Fe itself when the railroad along with Fred Harvey publicized the romance of the southwest and the Native pueblo Indians who worked with turquoise. While Santa Fe for decades was a busy trading hub, the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad and the hospitality genius of Fred Harvey helped make Santa fiFe a popular tourist destination. The Native pueblo Indians and art was a prime attraction. The pueblo Indians made many fine products using turquoise and the mineral was and still is a favorite. The Harvey Houses of the era showcased Indian jewelry and turquoise was a standard gem used along with silver. In fact, when most people think of Indian jewelry they usually think of both silver and turquoise.

cortez turquoise mine

Closed off Cortez Mine

As mentioned above, when the Spaniards explored the southwest prior to it’s colonization, the Native Indians had been mining turquoise for centuries. The Spaniards never seemed to place much importance on this particular mineral. Also, as mentioned above, turquoise mining in the U.S. never really took off until the 1880’s and this was some 60 years after the Spaniards had left the continent and thirty years after the U.S. took over New Mexico. When the railroad came to the southwest, the economics and demand changed for ever.

There are some ninety abandoned vertical mines in the Cerrillos Hills Historic Park and the immediate surrounding area. Before the park was opened there was a major effort to identify the old mines and have them covered with safety screening. Some mines were filled in yet still identified on the hiking trails. Hiking trail routes and mines are shown on free literature available at the park. Visiting the town of Cerrillos and hiking the trails at Cerrillos Hills is a good and unique addition to your New Mexico trip planner.

(Photos from author’s private collection)


Soo Locks

The biggest event in Great lakes shipping history was the construction of the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie Michigan. Just as in the case of Lake Ontario being at a higher elevation than Lake Erie, Lake Superior is at a higher elevation than Lake Huron. For commercial shipping to exist and to exist at a profit, canals and locks would have to be built connecting several of the Great Lakes.

soo locks 1800's

Soo Locks in the 1800's

The first locks constructed that reached the Great Lakes was the historic Erie Canal which connected the Hudson River to Lake Erie. In fact, the Erie Canal which cut across New York state had a total of 36 locks over it’s 363 mile distance. That 363 miles covered an elevation differential of some 565 feet. That was how much higher Lake Erie was compared to the Hudson River. The Erie Canal was a great success. Not only did it make trade between the east coast and Great Lakes region much more convenient and efficient but it also opened up a gateway for immigration into what is now called the midwest. When the Erie Canal was built, the midwest of today was the western frontier. It was where immigrants, many from Europe, traveled to settle in areas such as Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.

In the case of the Soo Locks, the necessity of having a way for commercial vessels to travel to and from Lake Superior was the result of iron ore being discovered and mined in the upper peninsula of Michigan. The actual discovery of iron ore predated what we refer to as the industrial age, but nevertheless, it’s value was appreciated. The iron ore was first discovered in the Marquette Range. In the early 1840’s, a man named Douglass Houghton, today’s namesake for the city of Houghton Michigan, was Michigan’s first geologist. Houghton surveyed the area and did determine that there were iron ore deposits, mostly on the southern shore of Lake Superior. At this time, the amount of the deposits were not yet determined. In 1845, the first large deposit was discovered near the site of Negaunee Michigan.

soo locks

Soo Locks, circa 1910

There are six main iron ore regions in the upper peninsula of Michigan extending into Wisconsin. The three Michigan ranges are the Marquette, Menominee and the Gogebic. The Gogebic extend to Wisconsin. In respect to shipping, the iron ore had to be transported from the shores of Lake Superior down to the steel mills in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The first iron ore to be shipped out of upper Michigan occurred in 1852 when six barrels of iron ore were shipped to Pennsylvania. The problem of course was the task of negotiating the rapids of the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and lake Huron to the south. During these very early times, boats would literally have to be pulled by horses through the streets of Sault Ste Marie Michigan. To make shipping possible on a large scale, Congress in 1852 passed a bill for the construction of a canal to bypass the rapids. Work began on the canal the next year. To pay for the canal and locks construction, the federal government granted the state of Michigan 750,000 acres of land to sell and raise the money.

soo locks in sault ste marie michigan

Modern day Soo Locks

Much of the labor for the construction was supplied by immigrants from the region south around Detroit and northern Ohio. These men found that building a canal in the upper part of Michigan would be a daunting task mostly due to the very harsh winter weather in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

The work was difficult and there were some labor disputes which caused some temporary work stoppages but finally on May 31, 1855 the first locks were completed. The locks were originally operated by the state and then turned over to federal control in the 1870’s.

The Soo Locks now consist of two canals and four locks. These allow vessels  to safely travel the 21 foot drop in elevation of the St. Mary’s River between Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan and Huron.Estimates are that about 10,000 vessels go through the locks each year. These include both Great Lake and ocean vessels. Since the locks were established there have been several additions and alterations made to accommodate the modern vessels of today.

The Soo Locks today are not only a necessary aid to Great Lakes navigation but is also one of Michigan’s more popular tourist attraction. The Soo locks are closed due to ice during the winter months. The Visitors Center is open from mid May to mid October and just might be a good addition to your Michigan vacation planner. Michigan’s upper peninsula is a great place to visit during the summer months and a visit to Sault Ste Marie and the Soo Locks make a good family vacation stop. The park Visitors Center can also give you a schedule of vessel arrivals to help plan your visit. Boat tours of the locks are also available. Tour boats travel along the international shoreline of the lower harbor letting you experience all the sights, sounds, and excitement of Sault Ste Marie which is Michigan’s oldest city.

Another related article that also makes an excellent addition to your Michigan summer vacation is the Copper Country Scenic Highway in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

(Photos are from the public domain)

Indian Art Museum / Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

indian art museum in santa fe

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture / Santa Fe NM

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/ Laboratory of Anthropology is a gem of a museum located on Museum Hill in Santa Fe New Mexico. This fascinating Indian art museum hopes to inspire appreciation for and knowledge of the diverse native arts, histories, languages, and cultures of the Southwest. A museum highlighting and showcasing the American Indian gives us the opportunity to learn more about the first humans who occupied this beautiful part of the United States. After all, the Indians of the southwest were there thousands of years before the first Spanish explorers landed on the North American continent.

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is part of the New Mexico museum system. This Santa Fe museum originally came about in answer to the unsystematic collecting by museums in the east. An anthropologist by the name of Edgar Lee Hewitt established the Museum of New Mexico in 1909. Hewitt’s goal was to collect Southwestern Indian materials. The second stage in the development of the museum occurred when John D. Rockefeller founded the Laboratory of Anthropology which had it’s goal of the study of Southwestern Native cultures. While all of this development was going on and artifacts collected, the exhibition of the material really wasn’t open to the public simply because there wasn’t sufficient space. Finally, in 1977, the New Mexico Legislature passed a bill providing $2.7 million for the building of a new New Mexico Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. The Indian art museum opened ten years later and has been a great addition to the list of Santa Fe museums.

museum hill in santa fe

Museum Hill banners

New Mexico tourism is highly connected to it’s excellent museums. Museum Hill, a very popular tourist site in Santa Fe, itself is quite a remarkable setting. Museum Hill is the site of four world class museums in one of the most picturesque sections of Santa Fe. In addition to the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, the Museum of International Folk Art and the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture feature both permanent and rotating exhibits. In addition, the museum is the venue for many special events during the year. Artist demonstrations, workshops and lectures are scheduled throughout the year. To give you an idea of past exhibitions at the museum and the type of unique events scheduled, in the year 2009 the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture featured “Native American Picture Books of Change”. This exhibition featured original works by Hopi, Navajo, Apache, and Pueblo artists who illustrated children’s books in the 1920’s through the present. Based on the book of the same title by Rebecca Benes, the exhibition focused on illustrations in Native American children’s books of the last century. Emerging Indian artists illustrated the stories for Indian students based on Native oral traditions and narratives about everyday Indian life. Exhibitions and demonstrations of this type have helped this Santa Fe museum reach it’s world renown status.

southwest indian art sculpture

Sculpture on Museum Hill

Many people spend an entire day at Museum Hill. With four world class museums available at one site along with an excellent cafe and shops in each of the museums, spending the day touring all four museums is a touring day very well spent.

For those tourist visiting Santa Fe New Mexico, getting to Museum Hill is quite easy. If you have an automobile, Museum Hill is about one and a half miles southeast of the Santa Fe plaza. For those without an automobile, the museums located at Museum Hill can be reached by taking the “M” line operated in collaboration with Santa Fe Trails, the city’s bus line. Departures start at 7:15 am from the Sheridan Street station and continue throughout the day.

Another interesting article we’ve published is Santa Fe Palace of the Governors

(Photos are from author’s private collection)


Valles Caldera

Take a scenic drive west of Los Alamos New Mexico on NM Rte 4 and you’ll come to Valles Caldera National Preserve. This 89,000 acre expanse is sitting inside a collapsed crater. Interestingly enough, this area was the well known Baca Ranch until the year 2000.

The Creation of the Crater

valles caldera

Valles Caldera in New Mexico

A “caldera” is a cauldron-like volcanic feature that’s usually formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. This is a bit different than a crater. A crater is sometimes caused by celestial bodies colliding with the earth. At the same time there are craters caused by volcanic activity. The difference is that a crater is a bowl shaped depression. A crater can be made by an impacting meteor, an underground land collapse, or it could be found at the top of a volcano. With a caldera there was an eruption after which the magma chamber collapsed and then was filled in. Another explanation of the difference between the two is that a crater is a steep walled depression located at the top of a volcano.

The Valles Caldera which is sometimes referred to as the Jemez Caldera, is twelve miles wide. It is quite unique, being only one of six known land based supervolcanoes. Native tribes roamed the caldera over 11,000 years ago. The tribes hunted on the caldera land  and spear points have been discovered dating back to that time. The tribes in this area collected “obsidian” which is a volcanic glass used back then for spear points. The obsidian was in demand and trading went on for it between the tribes of the southwest.

Special Photographic Tours Scheduled for 2013

Two three day photographic excursions of Valles Caldera crater will be offered during 2013. 
Visitors for these events will be chosen by lottery. Camping will be allowed at a designated location. Officials say the lottery closes April 24 for the first photography event, which is scheduled for May 24-26. The second events is scheduled for Sept. 20-22, and the lottery closes on Aug. 21. Anyone can apply by calling the preserve at 1-866-382-5537.

valles caldera in new mexico

NM Rte 4 passing Valles Caldera

The U.S. Congress passed the Valles Caldera Preservation Act in the year 2000. The act states that Congress established the Valles Caldera Preserve in order “to protect and preserve the scientific, scenic, geologic, watershed, fish, wildlife, historic, cultural, and recreational values of the preserve, and to provide for multiple use and sustained yield of renewable resources within the preserve. This Congressional act authorized the federal purchase of Baca Location No.1 and established the Valles Caldera Trust as the manager of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Science projects are a big part of what is currently happening at the preserve. There is a project in it’s third year to create a new geologic map of the preserve. The new map is intended to replace the 1970 USGS map of the same area and provide greater details to help geologists better understand the formation of the caldera and the Jemez Mountains region in general. A core sample taken in 2004 will provide details on the lake bed sedimentary history of the Valle Grande.

Driving Scenic New Mexico Route 4

valles caldera in jemez mountains

Historic marker at Valles Caldera

When you take a western road trip into the Jemez Mountains on NM Rte 4 west of Los Alamos, there are many fascinating sites to see in the vicinity of the Valles Caldera. This includes Battleship Rock directly on Route 4.

Battleship Rock received it’s name because the rock high colorful rock resembles the bow of a battleship. There’s also an excellent hiking trail head at Battleship Rock which will take you to Jemez Warm Springs and Jemez Falls. The trail is rated moderate and takes about three hours round trip. Drive a bit further on NM Rte 4 and you’ll arrive a beautiful Jemez Springs which is home to the Jemez State Monument. The Jemez State Monument features the ruins of a pueblo Indian village and mission dating back to the 1620’s.

Two additional sites we’ve written articles on are Jemez Springs in the Jemez Mountains and Bandelier National Monument.

(Photos are from author’s private collection)

Pueblo Revolt

Santa Fe New Mexico is a top tourist destination and draws thousands of people annually from around the world. Visit Santa Fe during the summer months and you’ll no doubt hear dozens of languages being spoken. Santa Fe has one of the richest histories of any city in the United States and to really learn about it’s roots you need to hear the famous story of the Pueblo Revolt.

What is referred to as the pueblo revolt is known in history as the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. This event was THE turning point in old Santa Fe history. If you have the opportunity to visit what is called “The City Different“, there’s a very visible reminder of the Pueblo Revolt that can be seen on top of a hill just a few blocks north of the Santa Fe plaza. The walk up the hill takes perhaps 15 to 20 minutes and you’ll enjoy a splendid view of not only the city below but also the Sangre de Cristo Mountains behind you to the northeast. On the top of this hill is a large white cross which is known as The Cross of the Martyrs. The cross is twenty-five feet tall and commemorates the death of 21 Franciscan friars and numerous Spanish colonists during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The Cross of the Martyrs was dedicated during Santa Fe Fiesta in 1920.

cross of the martyrs in santa fe

Cross of the Martyrs, Santa Fe NM

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was a repudiation of Spanish rule by the pueblo Indian tribes of northern New Mexico. It was the culmination of decades of forced conversion and servitude applied by the Spaniards. The church was at the center of the rebellion being the instrument for converting the local pueblo Indians to Christianity. There was also a good deal of harsh punishment against those pueblo Indians accused of sorcery and just about anything connected with their centuries old spirit worship. Whipping and being put in prison was not unusual punishment during these times. While the Pueblo Revolt may appear that it was set off by one distinct event in 1680, that really wasn’t the case. The anger was building up over decades. The harsh rules and punishments just came to a head in 1680. It just so happened that in 1680, the pueblo people had a galvanizing force from a leader named Pope (pronounced po-pay). Pope, who was just recently released from a prison, was the pueblo Indian who set up a network of messengers to communicate the detailed plans for revolt to neighboring tribes. Interestingly enough, even tribes that shared a mutual distrust of other tribes joined together for this assault. This was probably the key reason that the rebellion was successful.

With this being the case, the Franciscan friars were especially targeted by the pueblo Indians during this bloody uprising. As mentioned above, twenty-one friars were killed and this represented the vast majority of friars in New Mexico which at that time was named Nuevo Mexico.

cross of the martyrs

Walkway to the Cross of the Martyrs

The Pueblo Revolt was an act that violently addressed the grievances that the pueblo Indians had against the Spanish colonists. As such, it’s an interesting event with many twists and turns. One of the best books on the subject is The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth Century New Mexico by author Andrew L. Knaut. This fine book not only describes what took place during the revolt but also describes in great detail the rules and punishments meted out by the Spaniards against the pueblo peoples. It also describes in detail the interaction between the Indians and the Franciscan friars. It’s an excellent source of information about this historic rebellion.

view of santa fe new mexico

View of Santa Fe New Mexico from the Cross of the Martyrs

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 expelled the Spaniards from Nuevo Mexico for a period of twelve years. The Spaniards were successful in reentering the territory in 1692 under the new leadership of Diego de Vargas Zapata Lujan Ponce de Leon. De Vargas was successful in persuading twenty-three pueblos to rejoin Spain’s empire. While there was some resistance from a few pueblos, in the end de Vargas succeeded and Santa Fe itself was reoccupied with settlers by 1694.

A key factor that aided de Vargas’ reconquest was the fact that there was trouble between the pueblo tribes during the twelve years of Spanish absence. Pope himself pushed the tribes to burn and destroy anything Spanish including all crosses. Marriages that occurred during Spanish rule were not recognized. In general, the pueblo tribes split up after the revolt and confusion reigned. It was in this atmosphere that the Spaniards under de Vargas returned in force in 1692 with the result being a bloodless reconquest.

Two additional articles we’ve published that you’ll find interesting are The Palace of the Governors and The Santa Fe Trail and Plaza.

(Photos are from author’s private collection)