When Fun Roads rolled into Las Vegas, New Mexico we saw the latest page in the long and colorful history of the Wild West. It’s a quiet little town that has a closet full of skeletons. Las Vegas is North Central New Mexico about an hour east of Santa Fe along I-25. Back in 1886 Las Vegas was a stop on the Santa Fe Trail was where outlaws lived and fear and vigilante justice ruled.
It was an incredibly rough town there were frequent hangings in the plaza area. In fact, there was a time where they actually took the hanging post down because the children were copying what was happening in the town. The kids were actually hanging their pets.
Even the legendary Doc Holliday got into so much trouble in Las Vegas that he was run out of town. Jessie James got himself killed over a horse race with Billy the Kid. Wild West justice reigned here and when you road trip into Las Vegas today you can experience it for your self in some of the town’s original jail cells. You can find them in Titos an art gallery on Bridge Street.
Then there’s the story about the guy who came into town and shot three people in three days. After every shooting he’d say it was an accident… that he didn’t mean to do it.. it was just an accident. Then one day he was found hanging from the post with a note on his back saying “this was no accident.”
Just off Interstate 25, in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is Pecos National Historical Park. 25 miles north-west of Las Vegas the park offers visitors a chance to embrace a thousand years of human history.
The visitor’s center can supply you with trail maps and background information. Helpful staff from the National Park Service get you set up, but the tour around these ruins is self-guided. In its heyday, Pecos was a thriving village of 2,000. It was a farming community, a trading post, and home to an undefeated native military power.
That all changed in 1540 when the Spanish settled into Mexico intent on making Pecos Indians captured members of the Spanish Empire. Spanish culture was foreign to the Pecos as was the idea of a Christian God.
The Pecos resisted these changes and the next hundred years were dominated by dark revolt. Finally, the two sides reconciled as partners in the emerging Spanish pueblo community. But by then more division had taken its toll the pueblo was now being attacked by surrounding native tribes by 1800 disease, raids, and migration had reduced the Pecos population to 300 people.
The last survivors left the decaying pueblo in 1838. Since then the mighty ruins have attracted tourist and archeologist alike. As visitors try to reconstruct the bone minds the former glory of what was once the richest powerful pueblo in all of Mexico.
Its inspiring for those who visit today. Parking is abundant with plenty of space for RV’s of all sizes though camping is not allowed in the park. Admission is free. The 1/4 mile of wheelchair accessible trails are an easy walk but leave yourself about an hour to get through them.
Pecos National Historical Park
Pecos, NM 87552
Visitor Information: (505) 757-7241