"Long had in mind the building of a stage road through Raton Pass…What I proposed to do was to go into this winding rock-ribbed mountain pass and hew out a road which barring grades, should be as good as the average turnpike."
— Richens Lacy “Uncle Dick” Wootton, 1864, on the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail
(Logo and map of the Mountain Route and the Cimarron Route were done by Jac Coté of Las Vegas, NM)
A few of the many sites within the Chapter territory are described below. One recommendation to buy for those traveling the historic route is "Following the Santa Fe Trail", by Marc Simmons and Hal Jackson. Other informative websites are www.nps.gov/safe, www.santafetrailnm.org, and www.nenewmexico.com.
Historic state and DAR markers in Puertocito de la Piedra Lumbre in Kearny Gap (south of Las Vegas, New Mexico, west of the San Miguel County Corrections Center on NM 283) commemorate the historic meeting between William Becknell, the "Father of the Santa Fe Trail," and Captain Pedro Ignacio Gallego.
The front of the sign (right) reads, “Near this spot on November 13, 1821, a band of six Missouri traders led by William Becknell, encountered a force of more than 400 Mexican soldiers, militia, and Pueblo Indians under the command of Captain Pedro Ignacio Gallego. This peaceful meeting and the subsequent arrival of Becknell in Santa Fe, marked the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail as a commercial link between the United States and Mexico.”
Fort Union, New Mexico Territory, 1851 - 1891, became a national monument in 1954 and preservation began in 1956. (www.nps.gov/foun) This is a must-see site as you travel the Trail. Take exit 366 west off Interstate 25 between Raton and Las Vegas. (Watrous is on the east side of the interstate, still populated but now without any services.) Here lies a significant example of that which makes this chapter the “Heart of the Trails.”
Small portion of the ruins of the third/final fort which you may walk today. Self-guided and ranger-led tours are available. Coming from the Turkey Mountains, this wide swale in the prairie was created by thousands of wagons traveling the Mountain Route of the Santa Fe Trail from Missouri to Bent’s Old Fort in now Colorado, thence south into Fort Union.
Small portion of the ruins of the third/final fort which you may walk today.
Wide swale in the prairie coming from the Turkey Mountains into Fort Union.