About Moriarty, New Mexico
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: Elevation: 6,220 ft (1,896 m). Population: 1,910 (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).
Moriarty is a town in Torrance County, New Mexico, on the east side of the Sandia Range, next to Route 66's late 1930s alignment.
This part of New Mexico has been inhabited for over 10,000 years (the nearby archaeological sites at Clovis and Sandia Cave have some of America's oldest stone tools).
Sunset Motel, Moriarty
The area was later explored by the Spanish and became part of their American colonies as "Nueva México".
After Mexico's independence from Spain New Mexico became part of the new country who later lost it to the U.S. after being defeated during the Mexican - American War (1846 - 48).
Michael Timothy Moriarty moved to Estancia Valley with his wife and three children from Iowa, escaping from the cold northern winters. He settled there in 1887 as a rancher. The post office opened in 1903 (Mr. Moriarty was its first postmaster). Later that year the railway reached the town when the Santa Fe Central Railroad laid its tracks from Santa Fe to Willard and Vaughn where they met the CRI&G Railroad Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railroad that linked it with El Paso and Chicago.
The Name: Moriarty
The city is named after the first permanent settlers in the community: the Moriarty family.
Moriarty is the name of Sherlock Holmes most formidable foe, and is the Anglicized form of an Irish name: "Ó Muircheartaigh", found in County Kerry, Ireland. The meaning is "sea worthy" or "navigator".
The railway soon built a station and depot and the townsite grew into Moriarty. New settlers arrived by train, and established farms.
Route 66 was created in 1926, but its original alignment did not go through Moriarty. Instead it took a longer route north towards Santa Fe, by Las Vegas NM and then south again to Albuquerque. A shorter alignment was built in 1927 but was only paved in 1937, bypassing Santa Fe and shortening the trip between Santa Rosa and Albuquerque, it passed just north of Moriarty through Buford.
Santa Fe cut-off
Although the original alignment of Route 66 was based on necessity and followed the preexisting roads, it was a matter of time for it to adopt a shorter alignment with a straight east to west course along the 35th Parallel across the state of New Mexico.
Arthur T. Hannett New Mexico's governor, who had been mayor at Gallup, was aware of this and after being displaced in his 1927 bid for reelection by the party bosses in Santa Fe, took revenge in an unexpected way:
He ordered that a State Highway built from Santa Rosa to Moriaty, placing Albuquerque on the main crossroads of the state and relegating Santa Fe and Socorro to the backwaters.
The dirt surfaced road was completed in record time before he left office, but it would wait for ten years before it was incorporated into Route 66's aligment.
The Trans-America Footrace 1928 took thus short cut and ran up Tijeras Canyon through Moriarty and on to Santa Rosa.
This "Santa Fe Cut-off" (or shortening of Route 66) as it was known, was backed by the Route 66 Association and finally included in the Federal Aid (FAP) system for execution in 1931 and was finally completed by 1937. Santa Fe was cut-off and the road was shortened. Hannet got his revenge.
At that time, in the mid-1930s, the "Dust Bowl" drought had also hit the farmers in New Mexico and many of them were forced to leave Moriarty.
In those difficult days of the Depression and the Dust Bowl, a new community was created north of town, Buford.
Buford took its name from the son of a settler who owned the land east of the railroad, H. Crossley.
It was located in a strategic place, at the junction of NM-6, (later U.S. 66) and NM-41, and when Route 66 was aligned through it in 1937, it prospered.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, 1946 in his book "A guide to Highway 66" mentions Buford as a crossroads with "four cafes, six gas stations, two courts [motels]"
Eventually both communities (Moriarty and Buford) would merge as the City of Moriarty when it incorporated in 1953.
Irrigation overcame the drought problems and the flow of traffic along Route 66 and later Interstate 40 in the 1970s brought prosperity to the community. The railway tracks were lifted in the mid 70s.
Where to Stay
Moriarty has plenty of lodging options for those travelling along Route 66:
>> Book your Hotels in Motels and Hotels in Moriarty
Lodging Near Moriarty along Route 66
- 39 miles. Motels and Hotels in Albuqerque.
- 99 miles. Motels and Hotels in Acoma Pueblo.
- 117 miles. Motels and Hotels in Grants.
- 178 miles. Motels and Hotels in Gallup.
The Santa Fe Route 66 segment
Weather in Moriarty
Moriarty is located in a very dry area. On average 12 in. of rain (305 mm) fall each year. The highest takes place during summer from July to Oct. (6.84 in. - 174 mm). Snow averages 25 inches (63.5 cm) and falls between October and April.
Summer is hot but during the temperature drops during the night (influenced by altitude). Winters are cold.
The average high temperature in Summer (Jul.) is 88.1°F (31.2°C), while the average low is 54.5°F (12.5°C).
The winter average high temperature (Jan) is 46.4°F (8°C) and the average low is 15.6°F (-9.1°C).
Moriarty is located in an area with virtually no tornado risk: it only has one (1) Tornado watch per year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Moriarty
Moriarty is 200 miles from the Arizona - NM state line. Heading west from Moriarty along route 66 is the town of Edgewood (10 mi.), and further west are Tijeras (23 mi.) and Albuquerque (39 miles). Close to the Arizona state line is Gallup (178 mi.)
To the north of Moriarty, on the Santa Fe loop of Route 66 is Santa Fe (53 mi.)
Map of Moriarty and Route66
Map of Moriarty and Route 66 in New Mexico.
Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment; Red line: I-40 & I-25 where they overlap the old alignment.
See Route 66's alignment in Texas
Remove or restore State shading
Route 66 itinerary through Moriarty
Route 66 across New Mexico
Below is information on Route 66's alignment in Moriarty.
The Santa Fe Loop: Route 66 from 1926 to 1937
Visit our Santa Fe Loop page which describes the complete 1926 to 1937 alignment of Route 66 from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque through Pecos, Santa Fe and Bernalillo.
Moriarty, New Mexico: Attractions & Sights
Things to Do and See
Moriarty, its Attractions
Crossroads of Opportunity
Moriarty has its share of Vintage Route 66 motels: Cactus, Sunset, Sands and Lariat, plus the historic Longhorn Ranch, the Whiting Brothers Service Station and Greene Evans Garage. Enjoy the salt flats at Lake Estancia and drive the Salt Missions Scenic Byway visiting New Mexico Pueblos.
The Vintage Route 66 sights
The classic Route 66 sights in Moriarty are (from east to west) Sunset Motel (shown above) and next to it, the Whiting Brothers service station (see below), the Sands Motel across from the filling station (Map & Street View). The Greene Evans Garage (see below) and the Cactus Motel (now a mall, see Map & Street View).
Next to it, also on the south side of the road is the Lariat Motel (Map & Street View), and further west, but on the north side, don't miss the neon sign of the Rotosphere, a spiked coloured ball sign at El Comedor Restaurant (Map & Street View).
They were once part of the now defunct town of Buford which was assimilated into Moriarty in 1953.
Whiting Brothers Service Station
Four Whiting brothers (Arthur, Earnest, Eddie and Ralph) founded the company in 1926 and saw it grow to over 100 filling stations plus motels and truck stops from California to Texas. Many of them were located along Route 66 where you can still see the remains of those that were abandoned.
The Moriarty Service Station was the #72 and opened in 1954. By the mid-1980s the company folded and sold off or closed the service stations. And the #72 was bought by an employee, opening the Sal & Inez Service Station, which is still operating.
It sign, which was rusty and needing repair was an original one and was restored in 2014.
Moriarty Whiting Brothers Service Station
Long gone are other icons like "Blackie's Place" opened by Hubert Odell "Blackie" Ingram in 1945, which he ran until his death in 1966 and his widow Norma Dilbeck then ran it for almost another decade.
Greene Evans Garage
Jct. of Broadway and Rt. 66, Moriarty, NM.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
An Iconic Route 66 Service Station with a peculiar decoration on the walls' cornice and its Southwest Vernacular style; it has lost its pumps and canopies but can still be seen. It was built by Greene Evans in 1940 as a repair ship and gas staton. Now it is the Jr's Tire Shop.
See its Map and Street View
Pinto Bean Fiesta
Held during Sept. or October, it includes a parade, the crowning of the "Pinto Bean Queen" and fun and games at Crossly Park.
For more information contact City Hall at (505) 832-4406 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Outdoor activities: Soaring
Soaring or Gliding is a sport in which pilots fly gliders (sailplanes, without any motor) and use currents of rising air to remain airborne.
Moriarty Municipal Airport is home to the Albuquerque Soaring Club (ASC), founded in 1960. The area is ideal and has year-round gliding conditions.
Visit the United States Southwest Soaring Museum at the airport too -See below for more information on the museum .
Historical Society & Museum
202 S. Broadway, Moriarty NM
Exhibits and collections about the local history and prehistory: Spanish settlement, American pioneers and Native Americans.
Visit the Museum's website. Open: 10 AM - 5 PM (Tue-Fri) an 10 AM - 2 PM Sat.
U.S. Southwest Soaring Museum
918 Historic U.S. 66, Moriarty NM
At the local airport, a museum dedicated to gliding - soaring, with aircrafts on exhibition.
Visit the Museum's website(505) 832-9222. Open: 9 AM - 4 PM (Mon-Sat).
Tours & Itineraries
Nearby Route 66 Towns
Moriarty offers great views of the Rocky Mountains and the edge of the high desert in Central New Mexico's Estancia Valley.
The original alignment of Route 66 lies to the north and you can reach it via Santa Fe.
Some Side Trips
Gemmerville, Exit 203 I-40 East of Moriarty. See the Map and directions.
Drive eastwards from Moriarty along I-40 for 7.8 miles and take the Exit. Turn right and at the crossing with A123 (the original Route 66 alignment), turn right again. On the left side of the road is what remains of Longhorn Ranch: some trees and a rusty sign.
Old Longhorn Ranch Sign
Click to see the Street View and location of this sign. Road A123 is a short segment that ends in a dead end just east of this point, to the west it was absorbed into I-40. (See the map of this segment) of Route 66.
The ranch was named after the Texas Longhorn, a sturdy breed of cattle which gets its name from its very "long" horns: they can measure up to 7 feet (2.1 m) from tip to tip. (More on Longhorn cattle).
This is a new place name. The place where Longhorn Ranch once stood is now known as Gemmerville. It took its name from the Gemmer family who settled here in 1981 to operate a service stop. Soon after it became known by their name,. The "village" has a motel, night club, restaurant and gas station. Don't miss the historic Lake Estancia Marker at the Exit.
Capt. William A. ("Bill") Ehret was a former patrolman from Lincoln Co., NM, he opened his trading post in 1940 and dubbed it "Where the West Still Lives". He operated it for many years with his wife.
It grew into a formidable complex which welcomed travellers after the long lonely and boring trip across the desert from Santa Rosa. The Ranch included not only a motel, garage, service station and an Indian trading post with curios, it even had a museum, an imitation cowboy town, Indian dances and a real Concord Stagecoach once used to carry mail and passengers across the Wild West.
Now all that remains is a rusting sign next to the road.
The Great Lake
To the south of Route 66 at I-40 Exit 203 (see the Historic Marker on the SW ramp).
NM Historic Marker
Lake Estancia once covered an area of 434 sq.mi. (1.125 km2) with a water level of 6,200 ft (1.890 m). It was 35 mi. long and 23 mi. wide.
Nowadays all that remains are intermittent salt lakes and salt flats, but between 12,000 and 7,000 years ago the wetter and cooler climate allowed an enormous freshwater lake to form.
The high water level at that time would cover the nearby town of Estancia wth 100 ft. (33 m) of water but later it evaporated and became briny.
The natives farmed near some springs that flowed into the salt flats at Estancia and the Spanish explorers who stopped there named the village as a "resting place" or "Estancia".
Route 66 and I-40 cut across the northern tip of Lake Estancia at Exit 203.
Salt Missions Scenic Byway
A circuit of 116 miles (roughly 2.5 hours of driving). See the Map of the Circuit.
The Salt Missions Scenic Byway follows ancient trails and trade routes that run from Tijeras in the mountains, to the plains.
From Moriarty head south along NM-41, which heads to McIntosh and Estancia. The railway linked them with Santa Fe. Lumber, wool and pinto beans were shipped from the McIntosh while Estancia was an ancient Native campsite with plenty of fresh water in the desert.
Next is Mountainair, established in 1902 with interesting buildings (don't miss Shaffer Hotel or Rancho Bonito).
From Mountainair you can take some side trips to visit ancient "pueblos" belonging to the Salinas Pueblos Missions National Monument: Abo ruins (9 mi. along US-60, west), Quarai (8 mi. north alog NM-55) and Gran Quivira (25 mi. south on NM-55). Full information at the visitors' center in Mountainair.
These pueblos traded salt (from the salt flats of Lake Estancia), squash, cotton and corn. They have the remains of Spanish Mission churches dating from the 1600s.
From Mountainair the road heads north (NM-55 and later NM-337) passing through the towns of Manzano (stop by at the Manzano Mountains State Park), Tajique, Chilili, Escobosa, and Yrisarri. Visit their catholic churches.
The byway enters Cibola National Forest south of Tijeras (ideal for hiking, camping or just taking in the scenery). At Tijeras, on Route 66, head east along Old Route 66, which is aligned along the trail used by Apaches to raid the Spanish settlements on the Rio Grande. You will reach Moriarty after completing the circuit.
The Old alignment of Route 66 near Moriarty
Clines Corners to Moriarty along Old Route 66
Route 66 - I-40 from Clines Corners to Moriarty, NM.
The historic 1926 alignment of Route 66 took a wide curve northwards from Santa Rosa, reaching Santa Fe and then heading south again to Albuquerque (see above: Santa Fe cut-off"). The later 1937 alignment that bypassed Santa Fe and linked Santa Rosa via Clines Corner to Moriarty has been almost completely incorporated into I-40 all the way to Moriarty.
Actually the 1937 road went through the then town of Buford, located just to the north of Moriarty, and later absorbed by it.
The original 1937 road can be driven on the south of I-40 at Longhorn Ranch, and again at the I-40 Bus. Loop west (Old Route 66) west of I-40's Exit 197.
West of Moriarty, all the way to Albuquerque the historic Route 66 is now NM state highway 333.
See the Map of this segment of Route 66.
National and State Parks
Cibola National Forest
11776 Highway 337, Tijeras NM. (505) 281-3304. Official Website
The Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands spans several locations covering 1.6 million acres in New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.
The areas nearest to Moriarty are the Sandia (described in our page on Tijeras), and the Mountainair Ranger Districts. Further west, between Albuquerque and Gallup is the Mt. Taylor Ranger District.
Manzano Mountains State Park
The park is 42 miles southwest of Moriarty (Map with directions).
A great place for hiking, birding, wildlife viewing and camping in the forests at the foothills of the Manzanos. There is a campground and RV Park.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, 1946, A guide to Highway 66
Robert Julyan. 1996, The Place Names of New Mexico, UNM Press.
City website www.cityofmoriarty.org.
Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.
Original artwork by A. Whittall based on Google Street View Imagery.