The Rio Hondo runs through what is commonly called âBilly the Kid Countryâ in southern New Mexico. This terrain played host to much of the legendary drama that earned the Wild West its name. On Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway. …
Updated: Thursday, 05 Jan 2012, 6:26 PM MST
Published : Wednesday, 26 Aug 2009, 1:44 PM MDT
ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) - Located at the confluence of the Pecos and Hondo rivers Roswell was known as a camping area long before settlers built the first homes and businesses at what became the commercial center of southeastern New Mexico.
Native Americans hunted throughout the area as did Hispanic settlers, all of whom tended to avoid the Llano Estacado, the massive, arid and nearly flat plain that defines much of eastern New Mexico and west Texas. In territorial days cattle drives trailed by Roswell, and to the west Billy the Kid and his contemporaries chose up sides in the Lincoln County War. Today the well-preserved community of Lincoln is a state park.
In popular culture the city is best known for its connection to the Roswell Incident, the 1947 crash of some type of aircraft near the city that the U.S. Air Force first said was a flying saucer before rescinding its initial press release. The incident remains a mystery and in recent years a UFO Museum opened and the city now hosts the annual UFO Festival drawing skeptics, believers and the just-plain curious from around the world.
There is, of course, more to Roswell and its 45,000 residents "the incident." The city supports both agriculture and the oil-and-gas industry but also is home to New Mexico Military Institute and the Roswell Industrial Air Center. The air center is located at the former Walker Air Force Base, once the largest Strategic Air Command base in the country, whose closing in 1967 led some to forecast the collapse of the city.
Instead civic leaders rallied and took control of the 5,000-acre base. Over time base housing became a city neighborhood, the former military hospital transformed into a major rehabilitation center and business recruiters attracted a variety of industries to former Air Force buildings. Aviation also returned to the base taking advantage of the 2.5-mile main runway, one of the longest in the world. The economic turnaround won Roswell a designation as an All-American City by the National Municipal League (now the National Civic League).
The oil-and-gas industry is a major player in Roswell's economy with farming and ranching playing a significant role as well. Roswell serves as a gateway to recreation with the Sacramento Mountains to the west and the Pecos River flowing east of the city through the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge and the Salt Creek Wilderness. Also nearby is Bottomless Lake State Park.