Central New Mexico 30 miles south of Albuquerque, Rio Communities is located in a valley nestled against the Manzano Mountains on the east, mesas on the west. Accessible from Interstate 25, Highway 47 or Highway 314. It is three miles each of Belen and accessible via Reinken Avenue/River Road and Highway 47.
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On the north end of Valencia County is one of the pueblos along the Rio Grande - Isleta.
Visitors may visit the church located in the older part of the pueblo. The Catholic Church is highlighted by stained glass windows depicting the Native American worshipping God with gifts of corn and other crops.
On holy days, a visitor may be able to view tribal dancers in the church yard. Visitors are invited to watch with reverence, but please no photographing.
Isleta is also home of the Isleta Gaming Palace where visitors may try their luck at the slot machines and gambling games.
Golfers may also take time to play a round of golf on the Isleta Eagle Golf Course.
Staying in a smaller town can be a comforting experience but sometimes there's an irresistible pull to "The Big City."
Albuquerque offers the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Albuquerque, located near Old Town, a popular site for locals and visitors.
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is an introduction to many aspects of New Mexico through two museums and gift shops. This is the center for the 19 pueblos from across New Mexico.
Every weekend, traditional dance performances and art demonstrations are offered free to the public. This program is co-sponsored by the city of Albuquerque and the New Mexico Arts Division.
Santa Fe is not only the capital of New Mexico, but the heart of the world of southwestern art. Visitors may spend the day visiting galleries and museums. Among the museums is the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum located in downtown Santa Fe.
The annual calendar is highlighted by Indian Market each August. Hundreds of Native Americans display their art and jewelry work during the weekend.
Just 60 minutes south of Rio Communities on Interstate 25 is the town of Socorro. Socorro carries the unique contrast of space-age technology co-existing alongside reminders of Socorro County's frontier heritage.
Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge: A visit to the Bosque can be worthwhile any time of year. The Bosque del Apache is a winter haven for over 40,000 snow geese, 12,000 sand hill cranes, 20,000 ducks and the endangered whooping crane.
It's popular for viewing many other types of wildlife, such as deer, turkey, coyote, and various raptors. For many bird watchers and photographers, it's truly a dream come true.
San Miguel Mission
This historic church was built in 1891 and stands on the site of a mission built in 1627. It has massive adobe walls, large carved vigas, and supporting corbel arches. The church remains a lasting symbol of the area's Spanish heritage and an inspiration to later generations.
Kelly Ghost Town
The colorful history of the Rio Grande surrounds Socorro. South of Valencia County toward San Marcial are old farming towns along the Jornada del Muerto, Journey of Death, part of the original caravan route between Chihuahua, Mexico, and Santa Fe. The old mining town of Kelly is west of Socorro, near the Sierra de los Ladrones. San Acacia and the ancient ruins of Abo are north of Socorro.
National Radio Astronomy Observatory: Very Large Array Radio Telescope. West from Socorro on NM 60, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory operates both the Very Large Array and the Very Long Baseline Array, consisting of 10 identical radio telescopes throughout the United States from St. Croix, Virgin Islanders, to Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
The visitor center contains displays which describe radio astronomy and the VLA telescope. You can see the antennas and the site on a self-guided walking tour. It's open throughout the year from 8:30 p.m. to sunset.
The VLA was the backdrop for the movie "Contact" starring Jodie Foster.
The VLA, a radio telescope, is used to make images of astronomical objects with a level of detail that can be compared with photographs made by the world's largest optical telescopes. It allows scientists to study images of celestial objects in the deepest part of the universe with unparalleled clarity.
It receives naturally-occurring radio waves from planets, stars and galaxies throughout the universe.
How does it work? The 27 dish-shaped antennas of the VLA work together to make a radio "picture" or image. The radio waves from the astronomical object are collected, focused and amplified at the antennas. The signals are then transmitted to the control building where the signal from each antenna is combined with the signals from all the other antennas. A computer is used to process the signals and make the radio image.
The VLA antennas are moveable along rail tracks. When all the antennas are close together, the VLA makes images of a large region of the sky; when the antennas are spread out across more than 20 miles of the site the VLA makes very detailed images of a small part of the sky. Moving the antennas from close together to very far apart gives the VLA a "zoom lens" capability.
Astronomers use the VLA images to study the physical processes by which the sun, planets, comets, stars, galaxies and gas clouds throughout the universe produce radio waves. From these studies scientists hope to learn about the nature of celestial objects; how many, how distant and how diverse they are, what their chemical composition might be, and what the relationship is between them.
Truth or Consequences
Located in the south-central part of New Mexico, an hour and a half from Belen, Truth or Consequences is surrounded by the Black Range, Cibola and Gila National Forests.
Truth or Consequences entertains visitors year round. The community of TorC is bordered by the Rio Grande. With two museums, galleries, gift shops, antique shops and a number of food establishments, there's always something to see and do.
The Ralph Edwards Fiesta in May is the larges event in Sierra County. There's a stage show, parade, craft show, various races, dances and other activities.
Elephant Butte Lake
Elephant Butte Lake is the largest in New Mexico. Located in central New Mexico, it's been selected as having the finest fishery program in the Southwest.
Sports fish found in the lake include northern pike, blue catfish, black bullhead, catfish, white bass, striped bass, a variety of sunfish, large mouth, bluegill, small mouth bass, large mouth bass, white crappie, black crappie, yellow perch, and walleye pike.
Visitors to Elephant Butte Lake State Park will find plentiful camping accommocations along with an ideal climate.
The lake is serviced by three marinas: the Damsite Marina, Marina del Sur and Rocky Canyon Marina. They offer full facilities for fishermen, boaters, jet and water skiers, and campers.
A day trip east from Valencia County is a journey back into the history of New Mexico.
As travelers cross the Manzano Mountains on US 60, they may see many a train on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad making the climb over the range.
At the top of the climb is the town of Mountainair. This small town is becoming a haven for artists with several art galleries displaying their work.
Founded in 1903 by three Kansas men in anticipation of the railroads Belen Cut-off, its boom occurred after the shortcut's completion in 1908. Homesteaders planted beans and the town became the "Pinto Bean Capital of the World" - cleaning, storing and shipping the valley's beans. The bean era ended in the drought of the 1950s; ranching is now the mainstay.
Pueblos of the Salinas Valley
On US 60 in Mountainair is the headquarters for the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. The headquarters serves as the information center, museum, and bookstore. This is a good place for a visitor to start their exploration of the three ruins. Directions to the ruins may be obtained here.
Exploring these magnificent pueblo ruins and impressive mission churches of stone that have stood abandoned for more than three centuries will be the highlight of your tour. These sites are administered as three separate units of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.
Salinas Pueblo Missions
Surrounding the area are several ruins of pueblos built between 1100 and 1500. This area became one of the most populous pueblo trade centers, located astride major trade routes. Perhaps 10,000 people inhabited the area by the 1600s.
They traded valuable salt from the Las Salinas Valley; and maize, pinon nuts, beans, squash and cotton goods from the Rio Grande villages, from buffalo meat, hides, flints and shells from the plains to the east.
In 1598, Juan de Onate accepted formal submission to the Spanish King from the area's Native Americans. He called the valley's salt "one of New Mexico's four riches," but the other three never materialized.
Relations with the Native Americans soured when soldiers attempted to collect tribute to the Crown; however Philip II, charged by the Pope with Christianizing the natives, maintained the colony.
Quarai, the smallest of the three monuments, dates basck to about 1300 AD. Its early Native American dwellers were farmers and traders. The village consisted of compact apartment complexes built around kivas.
Between 1626 and 1628, Fray Juan Gutierrez arrived and began the conversion of this pueblo's 600 inhabitants in earnest. The church of La Purisima Conception de Cuarar was built by pueblo women and children around 1630.
The mission ruins, with red sandstone walls five feet thick and 40 feet high, are the most beautiful in the monument - a breathtaking view amidst cottonwoods and the Manzano Mountain Wilderness.
If you have an afternoon of free time, consider a trip west to see some of the more unusual and beautiful sites and scenery in the state.
A trip west from Valencia County on Highway 6 and Interstate 25 can introduce you to Native American tribes, rock formations, and hiking trails.
Acoma, also known as Sky City, an ancient Indian pueblo, sits atop a rock formation.
A museum at the foot of the pueblo offers insight into the history and culture of the people. There's also a restaurant. You can hop a small bus and take a guided tour of the pueblo village where you walk ancient trails among the old homes. Residents set up their wares on tables on the village streets and sell pottery, jewelry and snacks.
For an experience of another sort, stop at the pueblo's casino on Interstate 25.
A stop in the town of Grants, an old mining town, offers visitors the New Mexico Mining Museum. Here, the history of the area is on view - from ancient artifacts of the early Anasazi culture to a history of the town's uranium mining.
Visitors can descend into a mine shaft and see how the miners and their bosses really worked.
Onward west, then you may want to visit Ramah, a portion of the Navajo reservations with stunning landscapes and Ice Caves - popular among children.
El Morros National Monument: Back on the highway, heading west, stop at El Morro, an ancient rock with carvings from Indians and early Spanish Conquistadors. A hike to the top, offers you the remains of an ancient pueblo and a view of the surrounding area.
Next, is Gallup - billed as "the heart of the Indian Country." This town on the border of the Navajo Nation - the country's biggest reservation - is loaded with restaurants, motels, and hops filled with Navajo rugs, jewelry, pottery and baskets. Art work from the nearby Zuni reservation is also available.
Murals from the 1930s are preserved in the courthouse and many museums tell the history of the town.
If you're interested in old Western movies, a stop at the El Rancho Hotel is worthwhile. Here, photos of the stars (including Ronald Reagan) who stayed here while their movies were being made line the walls.
Chaco Canyon, one of the southwest's most impressive ruins, is also along this route. At the end of the a long stretch of dirt road, there's a museum and a campsite. The remains of multi-storied room blocks still stand. Archaeologists theorize that this was the religious center of the Anasazi (Navajo for "ancient ones" who are thought to be the ancestors of the present pueblo people) and drew people from surrounding villages.
Just 25 miles northwest from Gallup lies Window Rock, the Navajo Nation capital. Here, you can see the well-known "rock wall with the hole in it" behind the administration building that gave Window Rock its name.
Portions of the material throughout this website were taken directly from the Valencia County Visitors Guide. Our sole purpose is the promotion of Valencia County and no other intentions are expressed or implied.