Amtrak calls twice daily in Raton, a former rail center whose 1903 station bustles with Boy Scouts headed to and from nearby Philmont Scout Ranch each summer. (Photo: Â© Media Placitas LLC)
Updated: Thursday, 05 Jan 2012, 6:24 PM MST
Published : Wednesday, 26 Aug 2009, 1:44 PM MDT
RATON, N.M. (KRQE) - Travelers to New Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail knew the Raton area as a resting place after the arduous climb up and over the pass that would give the community its name. Yet it was modern transport--a transcontinental railroad--that created the modern city as the hub for a network of tracks serving mines, lumber camps, ranches and resorts.
As a regional center of commerce and recreation the town blossomed astride the railroad adding La Mesa Park horseracing track to its list of attractions in the late 1940s. La Mesa closed after 45 years although a group of investors recently won approval to build a new track and casino. Raton's population of around 7,000 also benefits from the abundant outdoor opportunities in the area for hunting and fishing.
To the east of Raton a 2-mile-long road circles and climbs a nearly perfect cinder cone to a view into a volcanic crater at Capulín National Monument. A trail circles the crater with a 360-degree view of the plains and peaks of northeastern New Mexico from an elevation of about 8,100 feet. Nearby the town of Folsom gave its name to Folsom Man, the prehistoric culture of 10,000 years ago discovered in 1908 when an African-American cowboy riding his horse down a draw spotted bones sticking out of the bank.
Nearly on the Texas border lies
Clayton , a historic crossroads on the southern branch of the Santa Fe Trail, the route of Spanish explorers and cowboys driving cattle before the arrival of the railroads. Clayton is located in the high-plains farm and ranch country and in its rowdier days fit the bill with a Boot Hill cemetery. Among the men buried there was desperado and train robber
Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum who in 1901 was awarded the dubious honor in of being the first man hanged in the city.