Travel destinations, techniques and reviews targeted towards the baby boomer.

New Mexico-Cimarron & Ute Park

Lisa Niday - Tuesday, September 04, 2012

I've spent some time this summer, taking the grand kids to our cabin in New Mexico. It is located in Ute Park. Now most of you probably have no idea where that is. To help orient you, it is about 10 miles west of Cimarron and about 50 miles south west from Raton, New Mexico.

Typically we do a little fishing, watch wildlife and play some games and just spend time together. If the weather is hot enough and the water level is high, the kids raft down the river. On the most recent trip it was a very different experience. Extreme heat has caused low water levels in the river and lakes, which in turn has caused large moss build up, so the fishing was not the best, but it did still offer an activity. While we were there, we had rain every day, which they needed, so our wildlife viewing was a little constrained as well.

Being towards the end of the season, the hummingbird viewing was at its prime. These small creatures are amazing and can offer hours of entertainment if you have a feeder. To think these small creatures fly to South America every year and then return here is amazing. They are fierce, as we learned watching some fighting, so don't let their small size fool you.  I also spent some time with the grandson teaching him how to take pictures. He really did pick it up quickly and hummingbirds certainly offer lots of challenges. Even if I am his grandmother, I will say he did a fantastic job and have included some of his photos below and the others are located in this album. The video above gives you an idea of the frenzy at the feeder in the late season to get as much nectar as possible. The hummingbirds offered lots of opportunities for teaching and learning as well as being outside.

photo of hummingbirds 

Hummingbirds outside the cabin afforded my grandson the opportunity to learn some photography skills.

The Lone Ranger

Now you might be wondering how this fits into the story. Disney was shooting the Lone Ranger in Cimarron Canyon, so we had a front row seat to see parts of the movie being made. This offered some unusual and unexpected entertainment not only to us, but all the residents in Ute Park. As you can imagine, this is the biggest thing to happen here in a long while. My grandsons only regret was that he had to go back to school and didn't actually get to see Johnny Depp. Now he did get to see the "train" props to be used in the movie and we got to see the Disney driver bringing in some of this equipment high center his truck and get stuck. Oh those "city folk".

My mom and dad stayed the next week and I have included some additional photos and a video from all the movie making. They did get to see Johnny Depp is all his "Tonto" apparel.

photo of Johnny Depp on set of Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp on the set of the Lone Ranger. Scene shot in Cimarron Canyon, New Mexico.

Early Cimarron History

Early history of the area dates back to the 1850's when the Jirarilla Apaches moved down from Canada and settled around the Ute Park, Cimarron, Vermejo, and Ponil Rivers. They hunted the buffalo, antelope, sheep, elk and deer which roamed in the area. According to Ute legend, the Ute Indians have always lived in the area. We can find factual references in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico from the rock art, so it is possible.

The Santa Fe Trail

Part of this area was used on the Santa Fe Trail. Originally, William Becknell headed from Missouri to find a a new market to sell his goods. He eventually crossed through a small dip in the mountains at what is currently, Raton Pass. He finally completed his journey to sell his goods when he arrived in Santa Fe in mid-November and was able to sell his goods. After Mexico was free from Spain, he chose to use the "Cimarron Cutoff" which was shorter and avoided the difficult mountain crossing. Today you still see signs marking the famous Santa Fe Trail.


The Maxwell Land Grant

By 1858, Lucien Maxwell, who had bought shares from the land grant, had moved his family into his new Cimarron home and had been appointed Postmaster and Indian Agent. By 1875, Cimarron had gained a reputation for lawlessness. It was during this time the Colfax County War took place. The Grant land was declared open and available to settlers in 1879 thus ending tenure of corruption, fraud and murder. The Lucien B. Maxwell house which was built in the 1950's after fired destroyed the original house in 1888 and 1924 is what you will view on the walk.

The Railroad

In 1906 a line of the St. Louis, Rocky Mountain & Pacific Railroad followed present-day Highway 64 from Raton to Cimarron with the intention of first going to Taos and then on to California. However the tracks never made it past Ute Park and by 1941 all rail operations ceased. The arrival of the railroad did bring a thriving Village to Cimarron.

Present Day

Today you can enjoy  a historical walking tour which features Dold Brothers' Warehouse, 1848;  the Carey Hardware & Livery Stable, 1872; and the St. James Hotel, 1872-80 amongst 10 other sites. Stop in at the Tourist office or some of the local businesses for this map.

St. James Hotel

A chef, Henri Lambert loved to prepare great food.  Around 1864, Henri Lambert traveled west and settled in northeastern New Mexico. Initially the Lamberts made their home in Elizabethtown, a rough mining community northwest of Cimarron. Henri Lambert tried mining but soon returned to his real profession as a chef.


The old St. James Hotel.

The gold ore began to play out and by 1871; houses and mines began to disappear in Elizabethtown. Prominent men in Cimarron enticed the Lamberts to move their business to the current site in Cimarron. Still a wonderful dining experience today, you can also explore the history by looking at the many photos. Notable guests included the Earp brothers, Buffalo Bill Cody, Zane Grey, and infamous gun slingers, Jesse James and Black Jack Ketchum rested here, as well. A glimpse into the bar ceiling bears witness to the fact that some 26 people were said to have been killed in the bar room brawls or shoot outs, but don't worry it's a safe place today. You can stay in one of the 18 historical rooms from the past which have been updated or choose from the more modern annex.

Philmont Boy Scout Ranch

The largest youth camp in the United States and the Boys Scouts largest high adventure base camp has served more than 950,000 scouts since its inception in 1939.

The Philmont Museum and Seton Memorial Library may be visited any day during the summer, and weekdays the rest of the year. Tours of the Villa Philmonte must be arranged at the Philmont Museum. The museum offers an extensive history about the camp and Waite Phillips, its donor. The library has many older books and if you enjoy looking at classic magazines and antique books, is definitely worth the visit. No fee is charged at any of these museums. It is recommended that you make a $5 donation per person if you are touring the Villa Philmonte.

Waite Phillips built the Villa Philmonte as the summer home for his family on the Philmont Ranch. It was completed in 1927 and was designed in Spanish Mediterranean style. Restored to the period when Phillips owned the ranch, it now serves as a memorial to him and his generosity to the Boy Scouts of America. He donated 35,857 acres of his ranch to the Boy Scouts of America in 1938 to serve as a national wilderness camping area.

photo of Villa Philamonte 

Villa Philamonte is available to tour but you need to make reservations.

NRA Whittington Center

Founded in 1973, the NRA Whittington Center hosts many competitive, educational and recreational activities in all shooting disciplines. It is the largest NRA shooting range in the United States. My husband spends his time here, instead of fishing, while we are at the cabin. A yearly membership is $50 and a day pass is $20.

Photo of NRA Whittington Center 

Even if you aren't into shooting, you will want to visit the Frank Brownell Museum of the Southwest, located inside the visitor's center and is free. Although mainly on the history of the southwest, it is told through the historical lens of the weapons of the period. You'll see guns from the law men and from the lawless. My grandsons have loved visiting the museum. Even if you don't shoot, if you have a boy interested in the outdoors or are yourself, you will find this worth a visit as well. It is located about 36 miles east of Cimarron off of Highway 64.


Just one of the many pistols and rifles inside the Frank Brownell Museum.

For us, we like to go to the cabin to enjoy each other's company, see the wildlife and maybe even fish or shoot. We do try to explore the area as well, we hope you will see a glimpse of what it has to offer.

Post has no comments.
Post a Comment

Captcha Image

Travel Posts by Topic