After a short stop in White Rock we headed to Cochiti Lake Corps of Engineering campground about thirty miles outside of Santa Fe. It was a beautiful drive.
Cochiti Lake is located on the Rio Grande, the fifth longest river in North America. The name Cochiti comes from the Native Americans who have lived in the area for over seven hundred years. We passed through several Indian reservations on our way from White Rock to Cochiti Lake. Many had signs prohibiting photography.
Cochiti Lake has one of the ten largest earthen dams in the United States. It is 5.5 miles long and is 251 feet tall to enclose water from the Rio Grande and Santa Fe Rivers. We paid a visit to the Dam Visitors Center. A couple from Martinsville, Virginia was also visiting and it was nice to meet someone from my birth state!
On Monday we drove into Santa Fe, the oldest (407 years) and highest (7,000 ft above sea level) capital city in the United States. We were there in 2015 and you can read about that visit here: Santa Fe, NM May 23, 2015
This visit we wanted to tour the state capitol building. The original capitol building was the Palace of Governors built in 1609 on the Plaza and served the Spanish, Mexican and American governments. This current capitol building was constructed in 1966 and is the only round state capitol building in the United States.
The building design forms the Zia sun symbol, a design found on a 19th century water jar from the Zia Pueblo. The sun with four rays symbolizes the four directions, the four seasons, the four times of the day (sunrise, noon, evening and night) and life’s four divisions (childhood, youth, adulthood and old age). The circle represents the circle of life, without a beginning or end.
The Zia also believed man has four sacred obligations: strong body, clear mind, pure spirit and devotion to the welfare of his people. We enjoyed walking around looking at the beautiful Native American and southwestern artwork.
Of particular interest was a buffalo head made completely out of recycled materials including old paintbrushes, paper-mache, scrap metal and movie film.
On the way to lunch we stopped by Cross of the Martyrs, a park that was once the site of Fort Marcy and has a spectacular view of Santa Fe. The white cross commemorates 21 Franciscan priests killed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.
We had lunch at a local recommended Mexican restaurant. We struggled to eat our lunch with the hot green chile sauce. Can you see the pain on Bill’s face?
After lunch we drove several miles east to the Pecos National Historical Park. The Park was formed in 1990 and had a Visitors Center with an interesting movie and exhibits.
The area has a rich history. From 1350-1838 it was home to the powerful Pecos Pueblo with pueblos rising four to five stories high and home to 2,000 people, including 500 warriors. In the 1540’s Spain tried to colonize the area and convert the people to Catholicism. Coronado and his men searching for the seven cities of gold clashed with the powerful, determined Pecos. In the early 1600’s Franciscan friars again tried to convert the Pecos, destroying kivas, smashing statues and banning Pueblo ceremonies. In 1621 a friar arrived who acknowledged the Pueblo culture, language and beliefs while also trying to educate and convert them. A large mission church was built, some of which is still standing and we were able to visit.
By the late 1700’s, drought, disease, migration and Comanche raids greatly decreased the Peso population and by 1838 the last of the inhabitants had moved from the region. From 1915-1929 archeological excavations of the site were done to study and save the remnants of six hundred plus years of human occupation.
In 1925, a man purchased 5,500 acres and created the Forked Lightning Ranch which was sold in 1941 to Buddy Fogelson, husband of actress Greer Garson. In 1991 Greer Garson sold the ranch to a Conservation Fund which then donated it to the National Park Service.
There is always work to do!
Santa Fe facts:
- Population of 82,800 (Santa Fe county is 147,423)
- 37 square miles (Santa Fe county is 121,298 square miles)
- Averages 325 days of sunshine a year
- USA Today Readers’ Choice named it one of Top Historic Cities in the U.S.