The ruins of a centuries old Indian city are preserved

Once upon a time in what is now New Mexico there existed a thriving even sophisticated community lasting nearly one thousand years until the last people vacated in 1838. The elements reclaimed the Pueblo of Pecos which vanished until 1915 when archaeologist A.V. Kidder acted upon rumors of a lost city and began excavating. The remnants of Pueblo of Pecos were uncovered and today forms the heart of Pecos National Historical Park along with the Spanish Franciscan mission built next to the pueblo.

The park originated in 1965 as Pecos National Monument and was elevated to National Historical Park in 1990 when its size swelled by the addition of 5,500 acres plus two separate 300-acre locations from the nearby sites of the 1862 Civil War battle of Glorieta. The land acquisition indirectly came from movie star Greer Garson and added a stretch along the Pecos River, Santa Fe Trail ruts, Kozlowski’s Stage Station and Garson’s home as park attractions. Garson and wealthy Texas oilman husband E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson owned the surrounding Forked Lightning Ranch and were patrons of the national monument. In fact, the visitors center is named for Fogelson and Garson narrates the introductory film.

Pecos National Historical Park is located 25 miles east of Santa Fe off I25 on State Highway 63. The terrain are classic scenes prompting people to move to New Mexico. The Pecos Valley thanks to the river and streams was an ideal location for agriculture and the Pecos Indians cultivated the land for centuries. The area was also strategic for commerce as the pueblo was centered between the plains and southwestern tribes thus the pueblo developed into a lively major trading center also flourishing for centuries.

At its peak, the pueblo grew to a large and surprisingly intricate four-story complex with a population of 2,000. Artist renderings depict a magnificent man-made creation looking down down upon crops. Then the Spaniards arrived causing a slow and steady disintegration of this advanced Indian civilization. The grand mission church was built. Historians have pieced together a fairly clear picture of this society and what happened.

The museum is chock full of both excavated Indian and Spanish artifacts. There are Indian pottery, beads, shell jewelry and arrowheads and Spanish spurs, crosses, hide scraper, hoof cleaner, candlesticks and coins. The wagon train period is represented by a coffee grinder and hair curler! The Civil War battle at Glorieta (named after a stream) is detailed and displayed are epaulets, canon and musket balls.

The actual walking trail through the pueblo and mission church ruins is a gentle 1 1/4 mile scenic walk. A trail guide is provided at the visitors center. Various points along the trail are numbered and correspond to information in the guide explaining what you are seeing. Do not expect to see anything as grandly preserved as Mesa Verde.

There does not appear to be any recent excavations being performed. Basically what is seen are stone lines and short walls marking where structures and rooms were and to be blunt, there is not really much to be seen ruins wise. Mother Earth always reclaims what was made of her. Much restoration work has been done on the mission complex. The layout of rooms have been dug out and identified. Church walls are standing high but one suspects the structure is being recreated as workers were putting in bricks. Perhaps of more interest to visitors are some nice elevated views of the valley.

Access is limited to the Civil War sections and interested visitors have to speak to park rangers concerning the 2 1/4 mile Glorieta hiking trail. Visitors may also inquire about touring the stage station and Garson’s ranch house. The park has recently opened up the Pecos River for fishing.