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Dry Cimarron Scenic Byway - Page 2

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To continue your adventure to Sugarite Canyon State Park, take NM 72 in Raton, east across 1-25 for about 5 miles until you reach a junction and turn left on NM Highway 526 traveling north 1.7 miles to Sugarite Canyon State Park. At the park entrance are the remains of the Sugarite Coal Camp, including a couple of old buildings and numerous rock foundations.


Long before this beautiful canyon became a coal camp, it was called home to a number of Native American tribes, including the Comanche, Ute, and Apache who hunted here for centuries


Established in 1912, the coal-mining "company town" was just one of seven towns in the Raton area built by the St. Louis, Rocky Mountain and Pacific Railroad. In its heyday, it boasted up to 1,000 residents, a school, a theater, the Blossburg Mercantile Company, the Bell Telephone Company, an opera house, a physician, a justice of the peace and a music teacher.



Sugarite, New Mexico

Old foundations dot the hills in Sugarite Canyon State Park.

 Coal mining tailings are in the background, Kathy Weiser, September, 2008.

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Miners relied on mules to pull carts laden with coal out from the depths of the Sugarite Mines. In 1941, it was announced the mines would be closed and the population scattered, homes were moved to Raton and Sugarite was left virtually deserted. In 1944, the post office closed its doors forever.

Amazingly, given its size, there is little left of Sugarite other than low walls and foundations. However, this was not uncommon at the time, as "company towns" were often moved -- lock, stock and barrel to the "next" mining camp, or were sold off for salvage.


However, a glimpse at the life of the miners can be seen if you take a scenic hike through the ruins, which includes numerous foundations along the interpretive trail.


Continue into Sugarite Canyon State Park to Lake Maloya and Lake Alice to explore more ruins of abandoned coal camps, fishing, or hike the park's numerous trails where you can enjoy the wildlife.


More Information:


Sugarite Canyon State Park

HCR 63, Box 386
Raton, New Mexico 87740






Continue the journey along the Dry Cimarron Scenic Byway by return to New Mexico Highway 72 and continuing east about five miles to the Yankee area.


When settlers first moved west along the trails to this area, the grass was so tall and thick that at times it was necessary to navigate with a compass. On a knoll to the south there used to be a mansion built by Yankee entrepreneur A.D. Ensight after the turn of the century. Before the settlement of Yankee was formed, farmers from nearby Johnson Mesa dug coal on the slopes of the mesa for their own personal use. In 1904, the Chicorica Coal Company, backed by a Wall Street brokerage firm and the Santa Fe Railroad, promoted by the entrepreneur A. D. Ensign, developed the coal beds on Johnson and Barela mesas. As the Yankee mines continued to develop, frame houses were built and the population grew to several thousand residents by 1907 featuring a school and numerous businesses. The mansion that ensign built was a beautiful two story home that featured solid mahogany, velvet furniture, oriental rugs, and marble statues. But the Ensign estate changed hands several times and by 1923 its treasures had been sold and the mansion fell into a state of disrepair. All traces of Yankee have vanished and the site is now occupied by a cattle ranch.


Johnson Mesa


Highway 72 twists and turns as the road climbs up to Johnson Mesa. Along the 8 mile drive you can often see deer, turkey, and bear on this climb, as well as gorgeous views to the lower elevations. Suddenly the road takes a turn and you will find yourself on an enormous plain. On top of this high, grassy plateau, once sat the small community of Bell, a progressive farming settlement, whose residents established the first telephone connections in New Mexico. Bell, built two thousand feet above the valley floor, looked out upon the vast valley below.


In the early 1880s, Marion Bell, a railroad construction worker, led a group of fellow workers and miners to the mesa top, trying to find a safer and more predictable occupation. Several families tried their hand at farming while some miners tried to juggle both occupations. For those ambitious fellows working at both farming and mining, carrier pigeons were dispatched from Blossburg to fly up to the mesa to notify the miners that they were needed down in the Raton Valley.


Johnson Mesa Church, New Mexico

The St. John Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1897, Kathy Weiser,

September, 2008.

This image available for photographic prints & editorial

downloads HERE!



Atop Johnson Mesa, New Mexico

Atop Johnson Mesa this lonely barn sits silent, Kathy Weiser, September, 2008.

This image available for photographic prints & editorial

downloads HERE!


At one time there was a family living on every 160 acres of land and the mesa boasted five schools, a church and many recreational facilities for family life. Times were often hard for the mesa people where winters were often severe and the entire mesa was snowbound.


After World War I, people began leaving the mesa for better opportunities and in 1933, Bell closed its post office.


Today a few families make their home on the mesa during the summer but no one lives there during the winter. Still standing is about a dozen deserted farm buildings, the St. John Methodist Episcopal Church and the cemetery.



Continued Next Page


Johnson Mesa, New Mexico Cemetery

Cemetery Atop Johnson Mesa, Kathy Weiser,  September, 2008.

This image available for photographic prints & editorial

downloads HERE!


Coming down Johnson Mesa, New Mexico

Coming down Johnson Mesa. Tthere's a reason why this is

 a scenic drive, Kathy Weiser, September, 2008.

This image available for photographic prints & editorial

downloads HERE!


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