The Tularosa Basin

The Tularosa Basin is located primarily in Otero County. It covers about 6,500 sq. miles and is 35% larger than the state of Connecticut. It’s nestled between the beautiful Sacramento Mountains to the east, and the San Andres and Oscura Mountains to the west, where the views of the Basin are absolutely stunning.

The basin is geologically considered part of the Rio Grande Rift zone, which widens due to the slight clockwise rotation of the Colorado Plateautectonic plates.

When the Spanish arrived in the Tularosa Basin, they found springs and small streams coming from the Sacramento Mountains that fed a relatively lush grassland on the eastern side of the basin. While some sheep ranching and mining was tried by the Spanish, the area remained firmly under Apache control until the 1850s.

Under US military protection, the first permanent settlement was established in 1862, when about 50 Hispanic farmers from the Rio Grande Valley moved to what is now Tularosa.

How can you enjoy the most notable features of the basin?

  1. Tularosa Basin Museum of History
    1. This is the very first stop for anyone curious to know more and understand the history of the land, the people, and their lives in the Basin.
  2. Tularosa Creek flows westward into the Tularosa Basin just north of the village of Tularosa.
  3. Carrizozo Malpais lava flow
    1. Get to know this ancient lava flow. Upon closer inspection, you’ll find yourself amazed at the variety of life (both flora and fauna) that inhabit and thrive in this seemingly inhospitable environment.
  4. Three Rivers Petroglyph Site
    1. Get to know the thoughts, ideas, and messages ancient Native Americans carved on these volcanic rocks.
  5. White Sands National Monument
    1. Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand engulf 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dune field. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dune field, along with the plants and animals that live there.
  6. Original Acequia system in the Village of Tularosa.
    1. The Acequia System in Tularosa remains in its original state and is one of the most attractive features of the village. It’s also what ultimately turned this piece of land into an oasis for local farmers and wildlife alike.
    2. The Original Townsite District is comprised of the original 48 blocks with which Tularosa was established. The
      architecture of historic houses stays true to local techniques particular to the area within these 48 blocks with the acequia system lining its streets.
  7. Toy Train Depot
    1. Acquaint yourself with the history of local railroads, and how they shaped the early local communities.
  8. La Luz Pottery Factory
    1. The Pottery Factory is of national significance, important to Rhode Island as well as New Mexico. And it is of particular significance to all the Friends of Bill Wilson because of its association with the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  9. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park
    1. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park consists of two separate parcels of land. Both parcels are historically significant. The Dog Canyon tract was used by Apache warriors as a defensive position and a base of operations during their numerous battles and wars with Euro-American explorers and settlers. Oliver Lee’s homestead near the mouth of Dog Canyon was built in 1893. Lee was an influential and controversial citizen of New Mexico’s settlement.
  10. Disappearance of Albert J Fountain and his son Henry.
    1. Albert Jennings Fountain was a Civil War veteran, New Mexico legislator and prominent lawyer. Colonel Fountain and his young son were presumed murdered near this spot while traveling between Lincoln and Las Cruces on February 1, 1896. Their bodies have never been found. Oliver Lee and James Gilliland were tried for their murder in 1898. Both were acquitted. 
  11. Holloman Air Force Base
    1. Planned for the British Overseas Training program which they did not pursue, construction for the USAAF base 6 mi west of Alamogordo, New Mexico, began on 6 February 1942. After the nearby Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range was established by Executive Order No. 9029, the neighboring military installation became the Alamogordo Field Training Station (27 May) and the Alamogordo Army Air Base (operated by the 359th Base Headquarters beginning 10 June 1942).
  12. White Sands Missile Range Museum
    1. At the White Sands Missile Range museum you can trace the origin of America’s missile and space activity, find out how the atomic age began and learn about the accomplishments of scientists like Dr. Wernher von Braun and Dr. Clyde Tombaugh at White Sands. Displays also include the prehistoric cultures and the rip-roaring Old West found in southern New Mexico.
    2. Outside the museum is a missile park displaying a variety of missiles and rockets tested at White Sands. These include everything from the WAC Corporal and Loon (U.S. version of the V-1) to a Pershing II and Patriot. More than 50 items are on display.
  13. Trinity nuclear test Site.On July 16, 1945, one week after the establishment of White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated in the north-central portion of the missile range, approximately 60 miles north of White Sands National Monument.

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