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Tiny Route 66 village

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Bluewater is a small almost "Ghost Town" agricultural community just off Route 66 at the foot of the Zuni Mountains. It is well known for the Bluewater Lake State Park and the Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post which operated between 1936 and 1973.

Bluewater NM

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About Bluewater, New Mexico

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 6,749 ft (2.057 m). Population: 628 (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).

Bluewater Village is an unincorporated farming community in Cibola County New Mexico. Map of Bluewater.

Main Street, Bluewater, New Mexico

Main Street, Bluewater near Route 66, New Mexico
Main Street in Bluewater, New Mexico, click on image for street View

Human beings have been living in this area for over 10,000 years and the streams provided water for their survival in the high desert region. The historic Native Americans who lived in this area were farmers who built their villages or "pueblos" close to the rivers that flowed from the Rocky Mountains and used their water to irrigate their crops of squash and corn.

The expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado reached the nearby Zuni and Acoma pueblos in 1540 they were the first Europeans to visit the region. The Spanish occupied what is now New Mexico in the early 1600s and despite the brief period (1680-1692) of the Pueblo Revolt, they submitted the natives and grouped them in the modern pueblos.

The area where Bluewater is located was under constant attack by the Navajo Indians. In 1821, after Mexico's independence from Spain, it became a part of that country. In 1848 it was ceded to the U.S. after after Mexico's defeat in the Mexican-American War.

The Name: Bluewater

According to the Indians, long before the lava flowed in the badlands (some 3,000 years ago), there was a lake in the valley. The Spanish explorers used the native name for the area and called it "Agua Azul" (Blue Water).

The town's name is due to the stream (Bluewater Creek) which also gives its name to the "Bluewater Valley.

In the 1850s, Martin Boure, a Frenchman made his homestead on the creek just above where the lake is now located. And in the early 1860s, the U.S. Army defeated the Navajo people and pacified the region. This increased the inflow of settlers. In the 1870s a cattle ranch was established there by other Frenchmen.

The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, later Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad built a station there in 1881 and named it after the creek: Bluewater, a post office opened there in 1889. In 1885 the ranchers built an earthen dam on the creek but the floods washed it away a year later. Finally, defeated by drought, in 1892, the cattle men gave up.

At that time Ernst A. Tietjen who lived in nearby Ramah, claimed the land and built an earthen dam for irrigation at the point where the Cottonwood and Bluewater Creeks met. Soon other Mormon families settled there. The dam was washed away again in 1904.

Ernst A. Tietjen was confirmed in the ownership of his homestead in 1905. He sold the first lot of Bluewater in 1910 to E. H. Dewey. the town was partly in his property and partly in the land of Thomas McNeil, the village was named Mormontown, and was located to the west of the railway. The railway station survived but the few inhabitants that lived next to it moved to Mormontown and changed its name to Bluewater.

The dam was replaced with a cement one which in turn was replaced by the current concrete arch dam constructed in 1926 - 27 by the Toltec-Bluewater Irrigation District. The water was used to irrigate the farms downstream towards Grants, which became at that time the "Carrot Capital of America". Later water was used for mining uranium. In 1926 Route 66 was aligned just north of Bluewater between Gallup and Grants.

When Valencia county was split in 1981, Bluewater became part of Cibola county.


Where to Stay

There is lodging close to Bluewater along Route 66:

> > Book your Hotels in neighboring Grants

Lodging Near Bluewater along Route 66

Heading West...

Heading Arizona

Heading East....

The Santa Fe Route 66 segment

Find a room nearby, in neighboring Grants

>> There is an RV campground at Lake Bluewater and in Grants

The weather in Bluewater

Bluewater has a sunny and dry climate. It is located in a relatively high and arid region between mountain ranges near to the continental divide. Winter is cold and summer hot. There is a large day-night temperature swing.

The average high in summer (July) is about 91°C (33°C), and the average low is 57°C (14°C). The average high in winter (Jan) is around 49°C (9°C), while the avg. low is only 15°C, well below freezing point (-9°C). A scant 10,5 inches of rain falls each year (266 mm), most of it during July, August, September and October with 5.6 inches (143 mm).

Though some strong snowstorms may strike during winter, the average snowfall is around 11 inches (28 cm).

Latest weather in Bluewater, NM
Bluewater, New Mexico its location map on Route 66
Location of Bluewater on Route 66

Tornado risk

There is no tornado risk in Bluewater: Cibola County has no Tornado watches. The area west of this point has no tornado events at all.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.

Map U.S. 66 in Bluewater New Mexico

See the alignment of US 66 in Bluewater, on our New Mexico Route 66 Map, it has the complete alignment across the state with all the towns along it.

This map shows the alignment of Route 66 in Bluewater. The color key for this town is:

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment.
Green: The 1926 - 1937 alignment through Santa Fe (click button to see it).

Route 66's alignment in New Mexico: the Historic Route 66 through Bluewater

Route 66 logo

Route 66 across New Mexico

Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across New Mexico.

The Santa Fe Loop (1926 - 1937)

Our Santa Fe Loop page 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 this town.

Bluewater: its Attractions

Landmarks, Route 66 sights

Getting to Bluewater

To the west are Thoreau and Gallup (52 mi.). To the east are Grants (12 mi.), San Fidel and the city of Albuquerque (94 mi). It is 153 miles to Santa Fe along the Santa Fe loop of US 66.

On the main alignment further east, beyond Albuquerque is Tucumcari and San Jon.

Almost a Ghost Town...

Almost a ghost town, it is best known for the Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post

Uranium ore, with its characteristic yellow color was discovered by a local Navajo shepherd, Paddy Martinez in 1950. This led to a mining boom and bust cycle. The nearby former Bluewater Mill of Anaconda Copper, processed the uranium ore between 1954 and 1982. The site now off-limits, was reclaimed in 1995, under the provisions of the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act, and is now monitored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The tailings impoundment site is just north of Route 66 in Bluewater.

From the tiny village head to the old Route 66 (the north frontage road of I-40) and head west, towards Thoreau to visit the "Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post":


Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post

7650 Old Route 66, 1.5 mi. north of Bluewater, NM.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

since 1936, a typical Trading Post and Curio Shop of Route 66.

The Bluewater the Old Crater Trading Post was built with a flat roof and stucco walls with protruding viga beams and colorful murals.

Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post, Bluewater, New Mexico

Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post, Bluewater near Route 66, New Mexico
Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post on Route 66 in Bluewater, New Mexico, click image for street view

It sold rugs, dolls, jewelry and pottery. The murlas depict the natives for the tourists in bright colors.

IT was owned by Claude Bowlin who set up his first post there in 1936 and named it after a local volcanic crater. He had been trading with the Navajo since 1912. And his post sold food and goods to the Navajo. In 1938 he added gas pumps. He opened more stores in New Mexico in the 1950s. Business boomed so the old store was demolished and a new one replaced it in 1954.

I-40 bypassed it and it closed for good in 1973. The property was sold and deeded for religious purposes only. It is now closed and abandoned.

Tours & Itineraries plus outdoor Fun

There are several tours that you can do near Bluewater, along Route 66 or futher afield into the "El Malpais" badlands...

Nearby Route 66 Towns

You can head towards the east and visit Grants (12 mi.), San Fidel (31 mi.) and Laguna (48 mi.).

To the southeast is Acoma Pueblo (40 mi.). To the west is Thoreau (20 mi.)

The Old alignment of Route 66 near Bluewater

route 66 shield New Mexico

Route 66 Near Bluewater

1926 Alignment near Bluewater

Route 66 passed just north and east of Bluewater in its 1926 and later alignments. It was paved by the late 1930s.

> > See the previous segment McCartys to Grants

> > See this segment Grants to Thoreau.

National and State Parks

There are several parks in the are surrounding Bluewater. We have described some in the day-tours to them in our Grants to Gallup tour and in the Ventana Rock Arch tour.

These tours go into the El Malpais National Conservation Area and the El Malpais National Monument and El Morro National Monument.

Much closer to the village is:

Bluewater Lake State Park

See the Map with directions.

This is an artificial lake created by a dam in 1926-27 on the Bluewater Creek. It is located among the foothills of the Zuni Mountains with juniper and pinion trees dotting the slopes.

There is a campsite (with RV hookups available).

The lake is set at 7,555 ft. and is one mile wide and seven and a half miles long. A spot for watching birds, fishing and hiking.

More details at the Park's website.

Accommodation Search box:


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Banner image: The Dead Man's Curve, Laguna, NM by Perla S. Eichenblat.

Bowlin's Old Crater Trading Post, NPS

Guidebook of the Western United States: Part C - The Santa Fe Route, With a Side Trip to Grand Canyon of the Colorado, bulletin 613. Nelson Horatio Darton.

Robert Julyan. 1996, The Place Names of New Mexico, UNM Press.