Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lake Valley enters, then exits, life in New Mexico

We've been to a number of little boom towns that should have died but didn’t, quite. Last time we showed you Kingston and Hillsboro, little towns surviving along the Geronimo Scenic Byway.

100_3980 Just a little bit south, along the Lake Valley National Back Country Byway, lies the true ghost town of Lake Valley.

Silver was discovered in Lake Valley in 1878. Then, Lake Valley was just a dry lake bed. A small town developed, only to be flooded out of existence. The townspeople moved a little further up the hillside. They moved again in 1882 to the present town site, because of a major silver strike.During the 1880s and early 1890s, the town had up to 4000 people and a dozen saloons, plus newspapers, stores and hotels. After the silver bust of 1893, Lake Valley became a virtual ghost town. Then in 1895 the main business district burned to the ground. An influenza epidemic in 1918 did its part, and the Great Depression hit. Only a few remained. The last couple stayed until 1994.

Today the Bureau of Land Management maintains the town’s crumbling remains. A volunteer couple stays on site in their RV on a year-by-year contract.

100_3977 Turning onto the dirt road leading to Lake Valley, the first building we found was the Conoco Gas Station. It had originally been the town’s school, then a  saloon, and lastly a store and gas station. A forerunner to Circle K?

(We’ve made some new settings, following the lead of one of our fellow bloggers. To see any picture larger, just give the picture a click. To come back here, close the window that the enlarged picture showed up in. It may take a moment to open.)

IMG_4437 Just up the road was this old house, home to Mrs. Blanche Nowlin, a leading citizen of the town and the local dealer for Conoco since 1920. She lived in this house until her death in 1982, 45 years after her husband’s death in 1937.

IMG_4438 Next door to Mrs. Nowlin’s house was the Bella Hotel,. where her only neighbors, Pedro and Savina Martinez, lived until 1994. Mr. Martinez arrived in Lake Valley in 1904 at age 2, and has been a great source of information about Lake Valley for historians and archaeologists.

IMG_4445 We had been in town maybe ten minutes, poking around and taking pictures, when we were met by the BLM caretaker couple. Unfortunately we didn’t get their names as they drove up in their official-looking cart. After the initial conversation, they asked if we’d seen the church, and invited us on for a closer look.

IMG_4439 The church was originally a private home built in 1920 and later used as the Episcopalian Chapel, St. Columba. It was sparsely furnished, with a few pews and four tiny chairs. I wondered if that had been the Sunday School corner.


We spent quite a bit of time visiting this old town, seeing the dilapidated buildings and one old rusting car. We even toured the cemetery across the highway. The BLM caretakers told us that, of the first 34 persons buried there, 28 had been killed by Indians.

Here are a few more shots of the town. 100_3969

Doc Beals lived here until 1930. He was remembered as having a “fast-stepping horse.” He needed it to make his round of house calls.


100_3965 IMG_4434









The “new” schoolhouse on the right was built in 1904, doubled in size in 1920, and is now the BLM’s museum. The volunteer couple have their RV parked behind it with full hookups.

Monument Mountain stands

behind the town. but it is more commonly referred to as Lizard Mountain. See if you can tell why.



















And that’s our story of Lake Valley, New Mexico, important enough to merit it’s own Back Country Scenic Byway

100_3982Remember, to see any of these pictures larger, just click on them. To see ALL of our pictures of the Lake Valley day, visit our Web Album by clicking right here. Then be sure to come back for our next post in just a few days, right here in … Our Life on Wheels.

By the way, we have a new “follower” for our blog! Welcome, Sandy, as our 35th follower!


  1. Thanks for the tour of Lake Valley and history lesson of the town as well. Looking at those old houses sure makes one wonder what life was like back there during the late 1800's. Nice pics, too.

  2. Awww nuts, looks like we missed a great little western ghost town there. Thanks for the pics & great reporting. Those kinds of places always have a great history to tell. They just need more listeners like we blogger folks to carry on their stories......

  3. Very interesting place. Wonder how the caretakers found that "Job" and how long they have been there.
    Seems like it might be lonely work.
    Nice report ... so informative as usual and great pictures! Like the new pic format.


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