Rio Puerco Valley, New Mexico Along Old Route 66

Landscape west of Albuquerque, New Mexico

Landscape west of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Just a few miles west of Los Lunas, New Mexico, lies the beautiful Rio Puerco Valley, home to more than 10,000 archeological sites. In the midst of this haunting landscape, most of these sites date back to the Puebloan cultures of the ancient Anasazi Indians. Also in this area are 50 volcanoes, one of the largest being Cabezon Peak, rising in elevation some 8,000 feet (northwest of Albuquerque).

Some eighteen miles beyond Los Lunas on the western side of the Rio Grande is New Mexico’s Mystery Stone, also referred to as the Inscription Rock. Believe it or not, this ancient petroglyph has cast doubt on whether Christopher Columbus or the Norsemen were truly America’s first explorers.

Though people knew of the rock when New Mexico became a territory in 1850, no one could read it. In 1871, local Indians told the owner of the land that the rock predated their tribes’ coming to the area.

Mystery Stone in the Rio Puerco Valley, New Mexico.

Mystery Stone in the Rio Puerco Valley, New Mexico.

The site has been known by the locals as “Mystery Mountain” but is more commonly known as “Hidden Mountain.” At the foot of this hill, on the lower right side of a large mound of lava, there is a large boulder weighing an estimated 80 to 100 tons. The lava mound lies in a little canyon. Nine rows of characters are chiseled into the north face of the boulder, resembling an ancient Phoenician script.

Over the years, numerous interpretations and translations have been made, but most agree that it is an ancient version of the Ten Commandments which has also led to it being called the “Ten Commandments Rock.” Whatever the case may be, the circumstances surrounding this inscription are mysterious, giving the Mystery Stone its well-deserved name.

In 1999 Stan Fox, a linguist and Bible expert from Colchester, England, made a fresh translation of the Los Lunas Inscription based on photos and a careful drawing of the text.

“I am Jehovah your God who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves. There must be no other gods before my face. You must not make any idol. You must not take the name of Jehovah in vain. Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Honour your father and your mother so that your days may be long in the land that Jehovah your God has given to you. You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not give a false witness against your neighbor. You must not desire the wife of your neighbor nor anything that is his.”

In 2006, vandals destroyed the first line of the inscription. Its origins remain controversial, with some experts claiming it’s a fake.

There’s also an array of cultural periods to discover. Chacoan-era ruins have been uncovered, and evidence of Spanish habitation during the 18th century can be found in these lands.

Numerous backcountry roads allow visitors to experience the western landscapes of piñon/juniper woodlands, ponderosa pine parklands, open rangeland, and sagebrush flats mingled with sandstone bluffs and dry washes.

Visitors must purchase a Recreational Access Permit from the New Mexico State Land Office to be allowed access to the land where the Mystery Stone is located.

An old and abandoned bar in Correo, New Mexico

An old and abandoned bar in Correo, New Mexico


Heading west, Route 66 paralleled the railroad as it climbed the steep slope of the Rio Puerco Valley and curved northwest toward Correo. Though this old town still appears on maps, nothing remains of Correo but a lonely building that once served as a bar and its towering signpost.

The “town” first started as just a railroad siding called San Jose, named for the San Jose River to the south. However, in 1902, its name was changed to Suwanee because there was already a station called San Jose in Oklahoma. In 1917, a post office and a small store were established, and once again, the place’s name was changed — this time to Correo, derived from the Spanish word meaning “mail.” However, the locals, which were comprised mostly of area ranchers, used both names — Suwanee and Correo to describe it. It was located at the point where old Route 66 and the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railroad tracks converged.

There was also a one-room schoolhouse in an old boxcar for the children of the railroad crews. Later, a café, gas station, bar, and tourist cabins were added. The post office closed its doors forever in 1960, about the same time the town was bypassed by I-40.

The old bar building appears to be the only building left in Correo today; only a scattering of houses and foundations remain in the area.

Update: Our photo of the abandoned bar in Correo was taken in January 2015. However, photos taken in December 2016 show that the BAR letters are gone.


© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated April 2024.