Alamogordo, New Mexico: Tiny Town, Big History

Hi friends! I’m here to share a bit about a place not many people know about. It’s a small town in the desert that played an important part in world history – not to mention my life!

Alamogordo is a unique town situated in the heart of the Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico, USA. Alamo, as the locals call it, is sandwiched between an Air Force base (Holloman), an Army facility (While Sands Missile Range), a National Park (White Sands), and the scenic Sacramento Mountains. Thanks to its location, Alamogordo has deep ties to the U.S. space program and the military – including the creation of the atomic bomb! This history is fantastically detailed for sightseers through museums such as the New Mexico Museum of Space History, the Tularosa Basin Museum of History, the White Sands Missile Range Museum, and through can be experienced through events, such as biannual tours to Trinity site, the location of the atomic bomb’s first ever explosion.

Beyond the missiles and sand dunes, you can find several other attractions. One can find the oldest zoo in the Southwest here! The Alameda Park Zoo specializes in rehabilitating injured wildlife and participates in the Species Survival Plan for the Mexican wolf. In nearby Alameda Park, one can visit the Toy Train Depot, a railroad history museum and store with a 90 +year old miniature train visitors can ride through the park for $5 per person. Additionally, for the wine connoisseurs and aficionados, there are many local pistachio farms and wineries in town and off the highway that offer fun tours and wine-tastings.

Sunset over White Sands National Park

Thanks to the nearby mountains and desert, there are also loads of beautiful natural sights to explore for outdoor lovers!

View of Alamogordo from the top of Thunder Road
Scenic Oliver Lee State Park
A distant view of Alamogordo and White Sands from a hike up by Cloudcroft in the Sacramento Mountains

My Connection to Alamo

High school me circa 2007

I came to Alamogordo in 2002 after living previously in Japan for seven years. Moving to this small town felt stifling to teenage me. I’ve written in a past post about my struggles breaking free from a painful family situation that came to a head here. There are places that sometimes take me back to these memories, and I often have to remind myself that as an adult, I am making the choice to visit. However, taking on the perspective of someone who does not live here usually does the trick to shake off any residual melancholy.

Visiting Holloman AFB, July 2021

My personal history aside, I can truthfully say that I had a blast fun revisiting area highlights during this trip!  I am very excited to share some things I find interesting about Alamogordo’s local history and attractions in the wider context of world events. There’s so much beauty and history to see, not to mention some gorgeous sunsets. They don’t call New Mexico the “Land of Enchantment” for nothing!

A Bit o’ History

Old Alamo, early 1900s PC: Alamogordo Civic Center

This area has been inhabited by people as far back as 11,000 years ago! Numerous pre-historic Paleo-Indian sites yielding unique artifacts such as early tools, ceramics, hearths, adobe and stone pueblo mounds, pictographs and petroglyphs, and much more.

Fun fact: White Sands National Park has the largest collection of fossilized human footprints, with the latest discovery in 2018 being the footprints of a small woman and toddler dating back to the Ice Age!

The Spanish first arrived in 1534 and slowly brought settlers into the area, leading to numerous clashes with the native Mescalero Apaches well into the nineteenth century.

Tularosa Basin PC: National Park EArchives

It wasn’t until 1898, however, that the current city of Alamogordo was founded to support the construction of the El Paso and Northeastern Railway, headed by businessman Charles Bishop Eddy.  Charles Bishop Eddy and his older brother, John Arthur Eddy, were both successful merchants from New York who gained further wealth out west with the founding of a cattle company and a slew of other ventures that eventually led them to push for this railroad project out of Texas into New Mexico.

Moreover, we have John Arthur Eddy to thank for Alamogordo’s funny name! Meaning “Fat Cottonwood” in Spanish, Eddy named the city after a grove of fat Cottonwood trees he remembered seeing around the Pecos River area (over 131 miles away). He is also the reason Alamogordo has the distinction of being the very first planned community in the USA!  

A last note, Tularosa basin also has a fascinating geologic history. It formed as an ancient underwater geological dome that later collapsed as ocean waters receded from landmasses to form the wide basin. The remaining highlands today form three distinct mountain ranges: the Sacramento Mountains, the San Andres Mountains, and the Organ Mountains.

Tularosa Basin Museum of History

1914 Advertisement for Alamogordo

For more in-depth knowledge about Alamogordo and other towns in the Tularosa Basin (Tularosa, La Luz, Ruidoso, Cloudcroft, etc.) check out the Tularosa Basin Museum of History located in Alamogordo on 1004 N. White Sands Blvd!

This museum guides visitors through the prehistoric age through to modern times. I really enjoyed the variety of exhibits they had. Whether you’re into dinosaurs, astrochimps, or the wild wild west, there’s something for everyone!

Hours: 10am to 4pm Monday through Saturday.

Can you spot the Lady of the Mountain?
This local landmark portrays a profile of a woman reclining gracefully along the side of the mountain.

Be on the lookout for further posts about New Mexico here and on my Instagram!

Welcome to Alamogordo! Train mural on the corner of White Sands and 9th St.

Like this post? Why not pin it!

Sources:

Eidenbach, Peter L. (1983). “XII.Summary and Conclusions”. In Eidenbach, Peter L. (ed.). The Prehistory of Rhodes Canyon, N.M.: Survey and Mitigation. Tularosa, NM: Human Systems Research. pp. 145–149. OCLC 11576830.

Gershon, Livia. “Fossilized Footprints Found in New Mexico TRACK Traveler with Toddler in Tow.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 14 Oct. 2020, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/11000-year-old-new-mexico-footprints-track-adult-and-toddlers-trip-180976057/. Retrieved 2021-08-15.

Myrick, David F. (1990). New Mexico’s Railroads: A Historical Survey (revised ed.). Albuquerque, NM.: University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-1185-7.

Rand, Pat. “The Mountain Monthly.” Mountain Monthly, 8 Sept. 2015, mountainmonthly.com/cloudcroft-founders-series-charles-bishop-eddy/. Retrieved 2021-08-15.

Serna, Mary M.; James W. Steely. “Mescalero Apache”. Office of the State Historian: Digital History Project. State of New Mexico. Archived from the original on February 27, 2011, https://newmexicohistory.org/2013/11/03/mescalero-apache-people/. Retrieved 2021-08-15.

Instagram-able Alamogordo sign by McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch and Country Store

4 Comments Add yours

  1. shafinah.jaafar says:

    these are some SERIOUSLY SPECTACULAR VIEWS! 😍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh I have been wanting to visit New Mexico. Only driven through it years ago. Never heard of this town, but would love to visit now!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Krista says:

    I’m always so fascinated by small towns that aren’t too overrun by tourists. I like that there’s so much history to go with this town – makes visiting it even more interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

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