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Across the Continental Divide on Rt 66


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As you continue your journey from Grants you’ll head on out to through several small villages including Milan, Bluewater, Prewitt and Thoreau before reaching the Continental Divide.  Between Milan and nearby Prewitt is an interesting section of the old road as it is quite wide but very seldom used.  At intervals, abandoned motels and empty gas stations can be seen along this stretch of the road.  When Route 66 was young this was a major carrot-producing area covering thousands of acres. 




Vintage Continental Divide Postcard

Vintage Continental Divide Postcard


About seven miles beyond Grants you come to what was once the stopping point of Bluewater. Although never much more than a railroad loading station; a trading post, two motels, a café, garage, and gas station once did a brisk business in this tiny hamlet. All that’s left today is the old Bluewater Motel and Allen’s Garage. Both silent now, they attest to the better times along this old chunk of the road.

Near the interstate is the Bowlin’s Trading Post and gas station. Now called the Bowlin’s Bluewater Outpost, it’s all modernized today and has no resemblance of what might have stood here in the early days of Route 66.


The bluewater motel in new mexico

Though long abandoned the Bluewater Motel still

stands, photo courtesy the Road Wanderer

Just beyond Bluewater is an old barn with a large sign above stating "Swap Meet 66.” Lined with hubcaps, license plates, and surround by "junque,” the inside is full of collectibles. Also here, you will see beautiful red sandstone cliffs to the right and the volcanic cone of El Tinterio, where lava was said to have flowed as far east as Grants.



At Prewitt, New Mexico a side trip to nearby Bluewater Lake State Park might be a stop for you if you’re looking for camping or fishing opportunities. The lake is stocked with stocked with rainbow trout, native or cutthroat trout, and catfish, with trout weighing up to 9 pounds having been caught in the lake. The park is also host to many of nature's feathered friends.   Situated on the north flank of the Zuni Mountains, the reservoir is about seven miles southwest of Prewitt. Swimming, water-skiing, boat ramps, electrical hookups and dump station are also available





Just another eleven more miles brings you to the small town of Thoreau. Originally the town was named Mitchell, but was later re-named Thoreau (pronounced thu-roo, similar to threw). While in Thoreau be sure to visit the Navajo Co-op Store, which sells southwest art crafted by local artists and provides income to their health and literacy programs. Here you will find a wide variety of jewelry, pottery, rugs and kachinas made by local Indians. Also in Thoreau is a vintage gas station and trading post.

Another side trip presents itself here. The town of Crownpoint, some 24 miles north of Thoreau is the southern jumping off point to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Chaco Canyon is one of the key sites of the prehistoric culture in the Four Corners region.


Continental Divide Gas Station in 1940

The Great Divide Gas Station and trading post featured both vintage electric pumps and tall gravity

fed pumps, photo 1940, courtesy New MexicoRoute 66 Association.


Continental Divide

Another five miles west of Thoreau brings you to the Continental Divide. In typical Route 66 fashion there are a number of trading posts here to take advantage of the many people who stop along the route. In the early days of the Mother Road, there the site included the Great Divide Trading Company, the Continental Trading Post and Top O’ The World Hotel and Café.

If you are traveling the original road, you will need to rejoin I-40 at exit 47 as the old road dead-ends just beyond the Continental Divide. However, it might be worth a mosy down this short piece of road as you will find some old businesses including the Black App Trading Post.

Fort Wingate

From here you will continue on I-40 to Iyanbito where you will find the historic Fort Wingate Military Reservation on the left south of I-40. Originally established as a trading post in 1860, a full fledged fort was added in 1862. Garrisoning soldiers during the Civil War, it later functioned in the capacity of military surveys, escort functions, and patrols against raiding Indians. Among the soldiers associated with the fort were Christopher "Kit" Carson, John "Black Jack" Pershing, Douglas MacArthur, who was born there, and several Navajo Code Talker

In 1914 the fort housed Mexican Federalist troops and their families who had fled the Pancho Villa uprising. The Army renamed the deactivated fort "Fort Wingate General Ordnance Depot" in 1918.

Today, Fort Wingate is still an active base sometimes involved as a rocket launching testing site. The original trading post was sold to a private individual and continued to operate until the 1990s. The town of Fort Wingate grew up around the fort and trading post and exists today.

From here, you have reached the outskirts of Gallup, the Indian Center of the Southwest.



© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated April, 2010.



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Code Talkers at Fort Wingate, New Mexico

Code Talkers at Fort Wingate, New Mexico

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