The New Mexico State Parks Include The Only Park In America Wholly Dedicated To Viet Nam Veterans
There are thirty five State Parks in New Mexico and their amazing locations, together with the facilities they provide, have proved to be so popular that they attract almost five million visitors every year.
New Mexico is the 5th largest state in America but its population of just over two million people is among the smallest.
This works out to around sixteen people per square mile, so there are lots of wide open spaces for the state parks in New Mexico to be located.
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The Famous New Mexico Landmark Of Shiprock Mountain
The first Europeans to reach the area arrived during the 16th century and these were Spanish explorers travelling north from Mexico.
They discovered that Native American tribes such as the Navajo, Apache, Ute and the Pueblo people were there in some numbers.
The name New Mexico (Nuevo Mexico in Spanish) was originally used around 1563 and it was officially adopted as the name of the region in 1598 when Juan de Onate became the first governor of this Spanish province.
The Spanish influence in New Mexico has remained right up to the present day with many people of Hispanic descent living in the state.
They are descendants of old Spanish colonists as well as recent immigrants from Latin America. Almost thirty percent of the population of New Mexico speak Spanish. The state flag uses the colors red and yellow which are also those used on the Spanish flag.
The New Mexico State Parks are set in what is actually quite a diverse landscape. The state ranges from wide dusty deserts to snow capped mountains. Wheeler Peak at 13,161 feet is the highest point in New Mexico, it is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range which is the southern part of the Rocky Mountain range.
Wheeler Peak The Highest Point In New Mexico
The landscape of the state is influenced by its climate, the average annual rainfall of only 13.9 inches has led to only a tiny fraction of this state being covered by water.
There are, of course, some wonderful lakes and streams, but not as many as in some other states. Only a fifth of one percent of New Mexico is covered by water.
Naturally in such an arid state, the attraction to be close to water has led to almost three quarters of the New Mexico State Parks being located on lakes and rivers.Examples of this are Bluewater Lake State Park, Brantley Lake State Park, Caballo Lake State Park, Conchas Lake State Park and El Vado Lake State Park to name just a few.
America`s fourth longest river, the Rio Grande, runs from north to south through the state and it also features heavily in the New Mexico State Parks system. Parks like Leasburg Dam State Park, Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park and Percha Dam State Park are all to be found on this famous river.
The Rio Grande River With The Sandia Mountains In The Background
The system of state parks in New Mexico began in November 1933 when Bottomless Lakes State Park was opened. The number of parks reached a total of thirty five when Cerrillos Hills State Park was created in 2009.
The size of the parks varies tremendously, Morphy Lake State Park, high in the mountains, covers only thirty acres while Elephant Butte State Park is spread over a massive 24,500 acres.
There are also some rather unusual New Mexico State Parks. Take Rockhound State Park which allows amateur geologists to go mineral collecting on its 1,100 acres of land or Clayton Lake State Park which has a trail of fossilized dinosaur footprints.
There is also the Pancho Villa State Park which commemorates the 1916 raid carried out by Pancho Villa when he led his Mexican irregulars over the border into America. Several buildings from that era remain in the park and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Statue At Viet Nam Veterans State Park
However, what must surely be one of the most poignant state parks in the whole country is Viet Nam Veterans State Park. This was the first major Viet Nam Memorial in the United States and is the only state park dedicated exclusively to veterans of that terrible war.
And this map of New Mexico shows where they are sited