by Donna Klein
a Step Back to the American Old West
1. Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is the newest addition to the list of National Monuments, having been created through the following proclamation by the President of the United States on May 21, 2014 (excerpted from the White House website:
“In southern New Mexico, surrounding the city of Las Cruces in the Río Grande’s fertile Mesilla Valley, five iconic mountain ranges rise above Chihuahuan Desert grasslands: the Robledo, Sierra de las Uvas, Doña Ana, Organ, and Potrillo Mountains. These mountain ranges and lowlands form the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area…
The protection of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area will preserve its cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans.”
2. Twenty-two miles of the Butterfield Overland Mail Trail, also known as the Oxbow Route, is is part of the Monument. As the United States moved west, improvement in communications were needed. The Butterfield Overland Mail Route was established in 1857, taking mail from St. Louis to San Francisco until its take over by Wells Fargo in 1860. The first trip took 22 days. Visitors can see the remnants of one of the stage stops along the trail.
3. Billy the Kid’s ‘Outlaw Rock’ is another of the historic sites within the Monument’s boundaries. According to the President’s Proclamation, Billy the Kid signed this rock while hiding in the Robledo Mountains. The signature is still visible today.
4. ‘Geronimo’s Cave’ is located in the Robledo mountains. The Proclamation talks of the legend that “the Apache leader mysteriously disappeared without a trace” while trying to avoid the U.S. soldiers chasing him. Although a guard was placed at the entrance to the cave, Geronimo never came out.
5. Dripping Springs Natural Area is now a hiking and picnicking spot that was a resort in the 1870s. It also served as a sanitarium before being abandoned in the 1890s. Remnants are still visible today.
6. Historically significant during the Civil War era, the first battles of the conflict took place in the Organ Mountains when, according to the Proclamation, ‘Confederate soldiers used Baylor Pass Trail to outflank Union soldiers.’
There are many reasons to visit our newest National Monument. These are just a few significant to the American Old West. I’m looking forward to visiting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument someday. It’s an American treasure!