We literally blew through Las Cruces, New Mexico on our way to Leasburg Dam State Park. The wind had been gathering strength as we traveled west and we were looking forward to getting off the road.
Our campsite was pretty impressive for $14.00/ night. We had a concrete parking pad, electric and water hookups and a covered concrete patio with picnic table. In addition, the park had bathrooms with showers just a short walk away. The view wasn’t so bad either.
Although it was tempting to climb back in the truck and find a nearby mountain trail, we just had one day so decided to wander without driving. We managed a 3-mile walk throughout the park, eventually arriving at the Rio Grande River that flows alongside the park boundaries.
The Leasburg Diversion Dam was completed in 1907 and measures 10 feet high and 600 feet long. It holds a place in history as the first dam completed by the Bureau of Reclamation’s Rio Grande Project, built to channel irrigation water to the dry lands of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico.
But that was not the only historic site within walking distance. We took an afternoon stroll to visit nearby Fort Selden.
The U.S. Army established the fort in 1865 in an effort promote peace and protect westward bound settlers. Several of the troops serving the fort were the African American regiments known as the Buffalo Soldiers, whose main duty was to protect those settlers and build infrastructure. Officers soon brought their wives and children as the community grew. At age four, Douglas McArthur, who would later become a five-star general and American war hero, lived at Fort Selden during his father’s brief time as post commander.
The fort was decommissioned in 1891 and left abandoned, its adobe buildings surrendering to the wind and rain and snow. In 1970, Fort Selden was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1974 it was named a New Mexico State Monument.
The small museum tells the stories of life at Fort Selden with photos, storyboards and collectibles.