The New Mexico Mining Museum

Grants began as a railroad camp in the 1880s, when three Canadian brothers won a contract to build a section of the new Atlantic and Pacific Railroad. The Grant brothers’ camp was first called Grants Camp, then Grants Station and finally Grants. The town prospered because of logging in the nearby Zuni Mountains: Timber from the mountains was shipped to Albuquerque, where it was milled and sold throughout the west.

After the decline of logging in the 1930s, Grants gained fame as the U.S. “carrot capital.” The creation of nearby Bluewater Reservoir, along with the area’s volcanic soils, provided ideal conditions for farming. Grants also benefited from its location on U.S. Route 66, which brought tourists – and the businesses that catered to them.

In 1950, Patricio (Paddy) Martinez, a Navajo shepherd and prospector, discovered uranium ore near Haystack Mesa. He sparked a mining boom that lasted until the 1980s. Uranium was an important commodity because of its nuclear properties. It is the only naturally occurring isotope that can be converted into plutonium in a nuclear reactor. Plutonium is used to power nuclear reactors to generate electricity – and also in nuclear weapons. The rapid growth of defense efforts during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union meant heightened demand for uranium during the 1950s and 60s. The collapse of mining by the early 1980s drove the town into a depression, but it has enjoyed a resurgence based on tourism and the area’s scenic beauty. Recent interest in nuclear power has revived the possibility of more uranium mining in the area, and energy companies still own viable mining properties and claims.

New Mexico Mining Museum - Grants

The New Mexico Mining Museum says it is the world’s only museum devoted to uranium mining. The museum is housed in the Grants Chamber of Commerce. UpstaNew Mexico Mining Museum - mining machineryirs you can view a collection of world minerals, ancient artifacts and an historical survey of Grants and Cibola County. An elevator takes you down to the underground mine exhibit. Former miners helped build the exhibit, which includes mining galleries, equipment, ore cars, a lunchroom and tunnels. Miners’ recorded voices talk about their lives underground and the effects of uranium mining.

Address: 100 North Iron Avenue, Grants, New Mexico
Phone:    505-287-4802 or 800-748-2142
Hours:  9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays and holidays.
Admission: Children Ages 0-6 FREE, Ages 7-18 $2.00, Ages 19-59 $3.00, Senior $2.00

Nearby, takes some time to visit El Malpais National Monument. The Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center is located in Grants and is a jumping off point for hiking, caving, and exploring the lava country of Northwestern New Mexico.


The Lordsburg/Hidalgo County Museum

Lordsburg was once a transportation and commercial hub for southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. Phelps Dodge ran the Playas Smelter nearby and the local economy was built on ranching, farming (cotton and roses), and mining. The main highway ran through town and into southern Arizona and an international crossing to Mexico was just south at Antelope Wells. Students, including former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, came from the surrounding area in both New Mexico and Arizona to attend school. During World War II, an internment camp outside of Lordsburg held German prisoners of war.

However, when Interstate 10 was built, it bypassed Lordsburg, and the town has suffered economically as a result.


The Lordsburg/Hidalgo County Museum is housed in the old Hidalgo County Armory. The museum covers the area’s history. A premier and extensive exhibitLordsburg/Hidalgo County Museum exhibits is on New Mexico’s various World War II internment camps. This exhibit began as a traveling exhibit funded by the New Mexico Humanities Council and is now housed permanently in Lordsburg.

Address: 710 East 2nd Street, Lordsburg, NM 88045
Phone:     575-542-9086
Hours:     Monday through Friday, 1 to 5 p.m.
Admission: Free

Nearby you can also visit the ghost town, Shakespeare. Originally known as Mexican Springs, Shakespeare was a mining boom town on the Butterfield Overland Stage Trail. The town survived until 1932 and in 1935, it was purchased by the Hill family of Lordsburg. The town is known for its wild history that includes tales of Billy the Kid as well as, lesser known outlaws such as Russian Bill and Sandy King. The museum and visitor center are open two Saturdays a month when there are also tours and re-enactments about life in the town. There are occasional public tours offered for a donation. Call 575-542-9034 for the schedule. There are no private tours.

Tucumcari Historical Society and Research Center

Tucumcari was originally a railroad construction camp, called Ragtown, for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. The town name was changed to Tucumcari in 1908 – taking the name of Tucumcari Mountain, a regional landmark.  It became a ranching center because of the railroad lines coming  into the town. When the famous Route 66 was built, Tucumcari became famous as a stopping point largely because of their billboard advertisements that proclaimed, “Tucumcari Tonight.” The building of the Interstate System and I40 has caused the decline in tourism as it is easy to whiz past Tucumcari on the highway. It is worth a stop.

Tucumcari-MuseumThe Tucumcari Historical Museum and Research Center is housed in a three-story brick building dating from 1903 that originally served as the town’s first public school. The museum and research center occupy an entire city block with several buildings and various vehicles. The grounds are landscaped with native plants, and you will find many vehicles, including a caboose, a F100 Vietnam-era jet, a chuck wagon, a doctor’s buggy, and an adobe horno where bread is baked twice a year.

The museum is chock-a-block with artifacts from all over Quay County, including rocks, fossils, and archaeological finds, ranching and farm items, an old moonshine still, and an iron lung. There is also an exhibit about Route 66 and its Tucumcari/Quay County history.

Address: 416 South Adams Street, Tucumcari, NM 88401
Phone:    575-461-4201
Hours:    Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $2.50; children 6 to 15, $0.75.

New Mexico Route 66 Museum

Tucumcari is also home to an emerging museum devoted to Route 66 and its history and association with Tucumcari and New Mexico. The Museum is located in the back of the parking lot for the Tucumcari Convention Center. The exhibits include vintage cars, gas pumps, neon signs, and photographs.

Address: 1500 Highway 66, Tucumcari, NM 88401
Hours:     9:00 am – 2:00 pm, Monday – Friday
Admission: Free, Donations accepted.

Herzstein Memorial Museum

The town of Clayton was established in 1887 as a railroad stop. It started as a tent town with three saloons, a livery stable, two small hotels of sorts and a general store. Clayton was a waypoint for trade caravans and homesteaders traveling on the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail. The first train arrived March 20, 1888, on newly laid tracks. The town became a livestock-shipping center for herds from the Pecos River and the Texas Panhandle.

Herzstein Museum, ClaytonThe Herzstein Memorial Museum is run by the Union County Historical Society. The museum seeks to preserve the history of the city of Clayton and Union County. Named for the pioneering merchant family of Albert Herzstein, the museum is housed in a former Methodist Episcopal Church with a history of its own: The building also once served as a local community center with basketball courts, it housed the public library, and was the venue for many community gatherings. The Historical Society acquired the building in 1972. The museum opened the following year. Continue reading

Folsom Museum

Folsom MuseumThe Folsom Museum is housed in the old Doherty General Store and tells the region’s more recent Wild West history, including the story of Black Jack Ketchum, a notorious train robber, who was captured near Folsom and hung in 1901. Many of the exhibits are shown in the store’s original fixtures. The museum also has an exhibit of the Dolph Law Office from nearby Clayton; the office was moved anFrances Folsom Cleveland, wife of President Grover Cleveland. d reconstructed within the museum. The town of Folsom was named in honor of the wife of Grover Cleveland, Frances Folsom, even though she had no connection to the area. The museum has displays on the Folsom Points and bones from the nearby Folsom Man archaeological site.

The area is home to one of the most important archaeological sites in North America. After a disastrous flood in 1908, a black cowboy named George McJunkin discovered a cache of fossilized bison bones in a freshly cut arroyo. McJunkin realized the bones were not those of modern bison (they were at least 50 percent larger). McJunkin’s find was not investigated until four years after his death, but the discovery pushed the presence of man in North America back by at least 5,000 years to 12,000 years before present day. Archaeologists eventually found 32 bison skeletons and 26 spear points. These are know called “Folsom Points.” (Little is known about their makers, who have been dubbed “Folsom Man.”) Folsom Points are generally 3 to 5 inches long. They have a unique long flute on each side.

Address: 100 Main Street (at the junction of Highways 325 and 456), Folsom, NM 88419
Phone: 575-278-2122
Hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Weekends in May and September, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Rest of year: By   appointment.
Admission: Adults, $1.50. Children ages 6 to 12, $.50. Children under age 6, free.


Nearby visit Capulin Volcano National Monument. The entire area from Raton to Clayton was an active volcanic field and you can learn more about this activity at the National Monument. You can travel to the top of the volcano and hike around the rim. The views are spectacular. The visitor center has displays about the volcanos and the history of the area.