Southwestern New Mexico boasts a rich cultural and historical past. Drive the Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway and explore the area’s diverse history of Apache warriors, war heroes, early settlers, and mining boomtowns. Fortunately, much of this history has been compiled in museums along the byway. Visit these captivating museums, and you’ll discover adventure and centuries of history along Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway.
Begin your tour by stopping in Truth or Consequences, the byway’s starting point, at the Geronimo Trail Visitor Center. Pick up a map of the byway, and stroll past the items on display, such as interpretive panels on four major Apache leaders of the area and prehistoric ollas, or water jugs. Located adjacent to the visitor center, the Geronimo Springs Museum exhibits an impressive display of prehistoric southwestern pottery. As you enter the Apache room, don’t let the life-sized wax statue of legendary Apache warrior Geronimo startle you! Find interesting and unusual artifacts from early ranch life in the ranch rooms, and learn more of Hispanic culture in the Hispanic heritage room. Explore an authentic miner’s cabin, filled with items from the area’s early mining history. Explore the historical displays at the museum, then stay in Truth or Consequences for one more stop at Veterans Memorial Park, where you can honor the nation’s fallen heroes. Witness the only half replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, known as “The Wall that Heals.” Walk along a path depicting the Congressional Medal of Honor, and observe the monuments and interpretive panels scattered throughout this eight-acre park.
Follow the byway northwest about 37 miles to Winston, then southwest about four miles to the old mining town of Chloride, where you’ll get a sense of the town’s colorful history through its restored buildings that give the town a late 19th-century feel. Stop at the restored Pioneer Store Museum, where you can browse the fully refurbished store, arranged as it looked before it was sealed up in 1923. Examine the old iron tools mounted to the wall, and see what fascinating apothecary items were popular in this remote mining town almost a century ago. Take the self-guided “Wall Street Walk” with a brochure in hand, that depicts a sketch map of Chloride and a numbered legend that will guide you to the remaining 1880s' buildings along Wall Street.
Return to Truth or Consequences on the byway, continue south, and then head west about 32 miles to Hillsboro. Experience this town’s unique history at the Black Range Museum. Located in a building more than a century old, the museum once housed the Ocean Grove Hotel in the late 1800s and the Chinaman’s Café in the early 1900s. Peruse the museum and learn about the unusual Sadie Orchard, who owned the building when it was still a hotel. You can see pieces of this successful businesswoman’s jewelry, scarves, and old photographs. You’ll also find just about anything related to mining, ranching, and households built in the town’s mining boom. You’ll enjoy this museum’s whimsical collection of little historical tidbits that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. This museum doesn’t have a website, so call 575-895-5233 to schedule a visit.
About nine miles west along the byway, you’ll reach Kingston, another old mining town. You’ll want to stop at the Percha Bank, the only fully intact original building in the whole town. Inside, you’ll find artifacts from the famous Hole in the Wall saloon, items from the Dawson Drug Store, and a variety of maps and newspapers from the late 1800s. The bank’s vault is intact and fully operational, complete with two-foot-thick walls and intricately ornate details. If you are unable to visit the museum on the weekend, be sure to call and make an appointment to tour this historical gem.
Travel the byway and become enthralled as you scour its museums for historical tidbits and try to put together the pieces of its past. Discover the secret to the area’s alluring cultural and historical attributes as you take a fascinating journey along Geronimo Trail Scenic Byway.
- Copyright © 2000 Bill Yanneck.
- Public domain. Photo by Miller Photography Studio
- Public domain. Don Edmund of Chloride
- Public domain. Courtesy of the Percha Bank Museum