About Santa Rosa, New Mexico
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: Elevation: 4,616 ft (1,407 m). Population: 2,774 (2000).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).
Santa Rosa (Sun-tah Rousa), is the county seat of Guadalupe County, N. Mexico.
The Pecos River valley has been inhabited for over 10,000 years (the nearby archaeological site at Clovis NM has some of the oldest stone tools in America).
Vintage 1930s Postcard of Santa Rosa
The area was later explored by the Spanish (Coronado's expedition passed by Santa Rosa in 1540, fording Pecos River there), who incoprorated it to their American colonies as "Nueva México".
After Mexican became independent from Spain, this territory became part of Mexico, but later lost it to the U.S. after being defeated during the Mexican - American War (1846 - 48).
The River flows along the western part of Santa Rosa and has been a route since prehistoric times. To the north, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Santa Fe are the river's headwaters of the river at over 12,000 ft. (3.700 m). To the south is the Rio Grande which the Pecos reaches after flowing for 926 miles (1.490 km). It drains a vast area of almost 45,000 sq. mi. (115.000 km2).
After becoming the Territory of New Mexico, the U.S. Army pacified the Kiowa, Kiowa Apache and Comanche natives allowing settlement in the mid-1860s.
The first settlement in the area was established in 1865 and named Agua Negra Chiquita, which in Spanish means "Small Black Water", after a stream that flows near Santa Rosa. Its founder was Don Celso Baca.
Mr. Baca built a chapel in 1873 and named it after his mother "Rosa", and the Catholic Saint Saint Rose of Lima.
The name: Santa Rosa
Saint Rose of Lima (Santa Rosa de Lima) was born in Lima, Peru in 1586. She died there in 1617. She was beatified in 1667 and canonized in 1671.
She is ths patroness of Latin America and the Philippines. Her feast takes place on August 23.
Her real name was Isabel but due to her beauty she was renamed as Rosa (Rose) and is represented wearing a crown of roses.
The post office opened in 1868 and Guadalupe County was created in 1891, but the seat went to Puerto de Luna (Moon Port) located 10 miles south of Santa Rosa.
Grapes of Wrath
There is a scene in the 1940 movie where Henry Fonda (interpreting Tom Joad) watches a train crossing the Pecos River Bridge, shot in Santa Rosa.
See the Location and Street View of this scene.
The book by John Steinbeck and the movie it inspired, directed by John Ford, portrayed the tragic story of an Oklahoma family, the Joads, who lost their farm during the Great Depression and migrated to California seeking new opportunities.
In this Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Steinbeck (who later won the Nobel Prize in Literature) depicts their tragic journey (along Route 66). He also coined the phrase "Mother Road", referring to U.S. 66.
Read More: Grapes of Wrath, full details on the book and the movie.
The small community did not get a boost until the CRI&G Railroad (Chicago, Rock Island and Gulf Railroad) set up a camp there to build the line and the bridge over Pecos River. The railroad was completed in 1901, linking Santa Rosa with Chicago and later Los Angeles. In 1903 the County seat moved to Santa Rosa.
The townsite was promoted by C. H. Stearns. Although there are plenty of lakes and springs in the area, the "hard" water from the chalk laden soil made it unfit for drinking, so it had to be shipped in, in barrels.
Route 66 was created in 1926 and it followed the preexisting "Ozark Trails". The traffic increased local business as cafes, diners, hotels, garages and service stations opened to cater to the visitors.
The boom period lasted until I-40 bypassed the town in 1972 relegating many classic vintage shops as traffic flowed along the Interstate.
Where to Stay
Santa Rosa has plenty of lodging options for those travelling along Route 66:
>> Book your Hotels in Santa Rosa
Lodging Near Santa Rosa along Route 66
- 60 miles. Motels and Hotels in Tucumcari.
Further east, in Texas:
The Santa Fe Route 66 segment
>> There are RV campgrounds in Santa Rosa and also nearby at the State Parks.
Weather in Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa is located in a very dry area with about 15 inches (381 mm) of rainfall per year. Summer is hot but during the temperature drops during the night. Winters are cool.
Rainfall is higher during the summer with intense downpours: Between May and the end of Sept. around 9.5 in. of rain falls (241 mm).
Snowfall is moderate with an average of 13 inches of snow (33 cm). You may encounter snow at any time between Sept. and May but most (10 in. falls from Dec. to Feb.)
Average high temperature in summer (July) is about 92°F (33.3°C). In winter (Jan) the high is 54°F (12.s°C). The average low in summer is 61°F (16.1°C) and the winter low is below freezing, at 24°F (-4.4°C).
Santa Rosa is located in an area with virtually no tornado risk: it only has two (2) Tornado watches per year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Santa Rosa
At Clines Corner you can head north along the Santa Fe loop of Route 66 to Santa Fe (134 mi.)
Map of Santa Rosa and Route66
Map of Santa Rosa 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 Santa Rosa
Route 66 in New Mexico
Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across New Mexico.
The Santa Fe Loop (1926 - 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.
Below is full information on Route 66's 1926 alignment in Santa Rosa.
Santa Rosa, New Mexico: Attractions & Sights
Things to Do and See
Santa Rosa, its Attractions
The Scuba Diving Capital of the Southwest & City of Natural Lakes
Santa Rosa has several Route 66 icons (like the Club Cafe), a Route 66 Auto Museum and its historic Park Lake and Blue Hole which make it "The Scuba Diving Capital of the Southwest" and "City of Natural Lakes".
Defunct Cafe was demolished, but you can still see its sign
Club Cafe sign
Back in 1935, Route 66 followed the alignment through Santa Fe, as the shorter route through Moriarty was not yet even planned. At that time Floyd Shaw and Phillip Craig formed a partnership to open a café, "The Club Cafe", and it was identified by the sign which portrayed a rotund smiling man with a coat and tie: the "Fat Man"
The grinning-face of the "Fat Man" appeared on billboards along Route 66 inticing travellers to stop at the Club Cafe, which opened in 1935, but is now long gone. The original building was demolished.
Some Route 66 Vintage places
Route 66 Auto Museum
2866 Route 66, Santa Rosa NM (Map & Street View
Santa Rosa Car Museum
The feel of a Mom-&-Pop outfit yet a great collection of classic cars and hot rods. A must stop.
Visit the Museum's Google+. Open: 8 AM - 5 PM.
The red sandstone historic Guadalupe County courthouse was built in 1909 and is located in the downtown district. See its Map and Street View
Guadalupe County Court House
Santa Rosa Church
Also in the central district is the Catholic Santa Rosa de Lima Church. See its Map and Street View
Water Fun in Santa Rosa
Surprisingly, as it is located in a very arid region, where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountain's foothills, Santa Rosa is an oasis with many lakes, ponds and streams fed by natural springs.
Many of the lakes are sinkholes that form in the limestone porous sediments of the area, which then fill with water from the aquifer.
For this reason the town is known as "the City of Natural Lakes". The local municipal park, which is a Historic Site has one of those lakes, and right next to it is the famous Blue Hole. Further afield is a manmade lake, at the Santa Rosa Lake State Park, ideal for swimming, fishing and boating. Fishermen will also enjoy Perch Lake.
Park Lake Historic District
Will Rogers and Lake Drives, Santa Rosa, NM.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Built during the Great Depression it is a municipal park next to the Blue Hole.
See its Map and Street View.
The federal government created the WPA during the Great Depression to employ local labor to build public works. In Santa Rosa the WPA built a 25-acre (10 hectare) municipal Park with a lake. It became a stop for those travelling along Route 66, to freshen up in the lake and picninc there. It has a recreational area and of course the lake which is fed by springs and drains through man-made channels into El Rito Creek.
Blue Hole Rd., NM. See its Map and Street View.
An Artesian well or spring is formed by an aquifer that is contained by impervious strata under pressure. When the stata is breached by a well or a lake, the water rises from the aquifer until it reaches hydrostatic equilibrium.
The "Hole" is actually an artesian spring which is fed by natural springs with quite cool water at 62°F (16.7°C). It is a lake 81 feet deep (25 m), 60 ft diameter (18.3 m).
Its clear water with a deep blue hue is enjoyed by divers, swimmers and scuba divers, which justify Santa Rosa's designation as "The Scuba Diving Capital of the Southwest".
Tours & Itineraries
Nearby Route 66 Towns
Side Trip to Puerto de Luna
13 mi. south of Santa Rosa along NM-91. Map and directions
Highway 91 crosses the lovely scenery along the Pecos River Valley with canyons and mesas. At Puerto de Luna (Spanish for "Moon Port") the unique variety of "PDL Chile" is grown.
You can keep on south to Lake Sumner State Park or return to Santa Rosa
The Old alignment of Route 66 near Santa Rosa
Newkirk to Cuervo to Santa Rosa Historic Route 66
Route 66, Santa Rosa, NM.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
This is the historic segment of Route 66 from Newkirk to Santa Rosa.
The original 1926 alignment
The 1926 alignment used to go south from Newkirk, crossing what is now I-40 at Exit 300 along current NM-129, and go south for 0.83 mi. Then it turned sharply right along a now defunct road (See map of this part of the 1926 road).
This road (now closed) headed west for roughly 3.9 miles and continued west along what is now I-40 north frontage road. At what is now Exit 291 it took another course, away from I-40.
The road entered Cuervo, See Map), went through the town and then turned south (left) along Co. Rd. 2C. It followed it all the way to NM highway 156 (NM-156) where it turned right and headed west again. It passed Cross Rd. (the later alignment of Route 66 merges here with the older one).
Route 66 is part of an airport runway
The old 1926 alignment of Route 66 is under the runway of Santa Rosa's airport
After another 5.5 miles, it turned towards the southwest. Nowadays, on the left of NM-156 you can still see the remains old roadbed as it turns to the southwest (34.954721, -104.585001). This road no longer exists, but after 1.3 miles it turned sharply to the west for 2 mi. and crossed what is now US-84, it kept west along what is now the east-to-west runway of Santa Rosa's Route 66 airport.
Into Santa Rosa
After the airport, it met modern Blue Hole Rd. (34.937607, -104.661101), and followed it to Lake Dr. and then took a right along S 4th St. into the downtown part of Santa Rosa.
The later paved alignment
Later the road was realigned to eliminate the dog legs and shorten it for future paving. So it left Newkirk along what is now the north Frontage Road of I-40 towards the west, all the way to Cuervo.
At Exit 291 of I-40, it crosses to the south Frontage Road, just after Cuervo. Taking a right onto Cross Rd. It follows it with a southwestern course until it meets NM-156.
This section of Route 66 crosses a deep arroyo (dry stream bed) carved out by Cuervito Creek. It has a climb of 200 ft. and reaches a height of 5,100 ft. at Mesita Contadero.
The road is rough has washouts and potholes. You should have a car with high clearance. Local ranchers still use it.
At NM-156, the road takes a right, westwards along it.
Just east of Santa Rosa, at I-40's Exit 277 it crosses to the north side of the Interstate and follows Will Rogers Dr. (US-84) westwards, into the downtown area of Santa Rosa Passing under I-40 at Exit 275. End of the segment.
See the Newkirk - Cuervo - Santa Rosa Route 66 Map for the 1930-1960s alignment.
Full Details: The 1926 - 1937 Alignment of Route 66 through Santa Fe (The Santa Fe Loop)
National and State Parks
Santa Rosa Lake State Park
The park is 8.4 miles north os Santa Rosa along NM-91 (Map with directions).
Contact: Website, (575) 472-3110.
The reservoir is a place for fishing, camping, hiking, boating and bird watching. There is a campground and RV Park.
Lake Sumner State Park
40 miles southeast of Santa Rosa along US-84 (Map with directions).
Contact: 132 Lakeview Lane Sumner Lake NM, Website, (575) 355-2541.
The reservoir on the Pecos River is set in the grassy plains and offers boating, fishing, birding and swimming. There are campgrounds and RV facilities too.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, 1946, A guide to Highway 66
Robert Julyan. 1996, The Place Names of New Mexico, UNM Press.
Olive Smith Wiley, 1973, A Santa Rosa Story.
Postcard by Alfred Mc Garr, Public Domain
Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.