Pecos National Historical Park is home to some of America's richest archeological sites. It is managed by the National Park Service and is located in New Mexico just out of Santa Fe. The site occupies thousands of acres of land full of prehistorical ruins and Native American settlements, these stretch back over thousands of years of prehistory.

The landscapes in the park are beautifully dotted with juniper, ponderosa pine, and piñon woodlands in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These ruins are powerful reminders of what was once here in what is today the United States long before European settlement in the Americans.


History Of The Park

The park encompasses some 138 ha. and was established as a state monument back in 1935. In 1965 the Pecos National Monument was established over the same area by President Lyndon Johnson. The park was expanded in 1990 to include among other things various archaeologically significant landscapes.

  • Location: About 25 Miles Southeast of Santa Fe

Inside the national park, there are a number of attractions, the largest site is the ruins of Pecos Pueblo (sometimes called Cicuye Pueblo). There is also the Glorieta Pass Battlefield. For students of more modern American history, this is the site of an American Civil War battle that foiled the Confederate objective of severing the West from the Union.

  • Date Of The Battle: March 26-28, 1862

History Of The Pueblo Indians

One village here is estimated to have had around 2,000 inhabitants, such a population would have implied a fighting force of around 500 able-bodied men. This frontier location is marked by war and trade. They are believed to have been a conduit of trade between the hunting tribes of the buffalo plains to the north and the people of the Rio Grande Valley to the south.

If one could travel back in time, one could have found bustling trade fairs where plain tribes (primarily the mostly nomadic Apaches) traded with the river Pueblos. The Pecos Indians here acted as the middlemen, in time they became prosperous and economically powerful. By the 1400s they had grown into a regional power. Warfare was common, both among various Pueblo groups and with the Plains Indians.

  • River Pueblos Goods For Sale: Crops, Textiles, Turquoise, Pottery
  • Apaches Goods For Sale: Slaves, Shells, Flint, Buffalo Hides

The people who lived at Pecos Pueblos spoke the Towa language and had an elaborate religious life. There are some 20 ceremonial subterranean kivas at the site with some measuring as much as 40 feet in diameter and reaching down to as many as 10 feet in depth.

Related: The Lost City Of Cahokia: 10 Theories About What Took Place There

The Pueblo Indians are believed to have had a mostly agricultural diet with most of their intake coming from corn, squash, and beans. There are seven periods of history that show up in the archeological record dating back to the Preceramic Period (11,500 BC to 600 AD) - the people of this time period are known as the Ancestral Puebloan Paleo-Indians.

The Classic Period of the Pueblo lasted from 1325 to 1600. During this time many of the different Pueblo groups began to consolidate. Like other settlements in North America (such as the Aztecs and Maya - who have left stunning sites to visit today), these settlements became targets for the Spanish conquistadors. In time the settlements whittled away and were eventually abandoned. The first permanent Spanish settlement here was established in 1598. Disease and Comanche raids took their toll on the Pueblo and in 1838 the last of the Pueblo left.

This park is rich in American history. Besides the Pueblo other attractions include:

  • The Santa Fe Trail (Including A State Stop)
  • The Westernmost Battle Field Of The Civil War
  • Route 66 History

Visiting The Park Today

Opening Dates And Hours According To The National Park Service Are:

  • Winter Hours: Hours Open 8.00 am to 4.30 pm
  • Summer Hours: Hours Open 8.00 am to 5.30 pm
  • Closed: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, And New Year's Day
  • Entrance Fees: Entrance to Pecos National Historical Park Is Free

Related: New Mexico Really Is The 'Land Of Enchantment' And It's Easy To See Why

To bring the history of the site to life, consider timing the visit of the park with the tours of the national park on offer. There is a range of Ranger Guided Tours of the park. The summer tours are:

  • Ancestral Sites Tour: Duration 1 hour, Every Day, 10.00 am and 11.00 am
  • Battlefield Hike: Duration 2 hours, Saturdays, 10.30 am
  • Civil War Walking Tour: Duration 1.5 hours, Fridays and Sundays, 1.30 pm
  • Forked Lightning Ranch House Caravan Tour: Duration 1.5 hours, Saturdays And Mondays, 1.30 pm

Where To Stay

The national park is only a 30-minute drive out of Sante Fe and there is plenty of accommodation and dining options in this New Mexico city.

Today Pecos National Historical Park is one of America's most significant archeological sites and a place everyone should visit if given the chance. It is a perfect day trip from Santa Fe for those seeing the national desert wonderlands of New Mexico.

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