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.
Website: www.grants.org/MiningMuseum/tabid/220/Default.aspx
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.

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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.
Website: http://www.folsommuseum.org/
Admission: Adults, $1.50. Children ages 6 to 12, $.50. Children under age 6, free.

Capulin-Peak

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.