About Isleta, New Mexico
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 4,862 ft (1,482 m). Population: 4000 (2014).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).
Isleta is the an unincorporated community in New Mexico, located in Bernalillo County, NM on the Rio Grande River. See this Map of Isleta.
People have lived in this area for over 10,000 years. Later the Tiwa people settled in the valleys of the rivers that flowed into the Rio Grande. Isleta dates back to the 1300s.
Seeking the "Cities of Gold", the Spanish explored the area, and in 1540 Francisco Vásquez de Coronado named the native people "Pueblo", after the Spanish word for "village", and called this pueblo "Isleta" (little island).
The Spanish settled in Santa Fe in the early 1600s and converted the natives to Catholicism by building missions. The one in this pueblo was built in 1629 and named "San Agustín de la Isleta by the Franciscan friar Juan de Salas.
Spanish opression led to a rebellion in 1680 which destroyed the colonial towns, the inhabitants of Isleta fled to El Paso with the Spaniards and some went west to the Hopi villages in Arizona. The Spaniards returned in 1692 and De Vargas subdued the rebels and resettled the area, founding Albuquerque in 1706 as a key stopover on the Camino Real (Royal Road) that ran south into Mexico.
Origin of the name Isleta
The Tiwa pueblo was first spotted by the Spaniards in 1540 and it was located on a small island in the Rio Grande ("Islita" in Spanish - also "Isleta").
The local Tiwa name for the village means "flint kicking place" while the Navajos called by a name meaning "Tribe by the water". Gov. Otermin in 1692 called it "La Isleta" (The little island).
Isleta, in ruins, was resettled in 1710 and the church was rebuilt in 1716 (once again as San Agustín or St. Augustine).
After its independence from Spain, Nueva Mexico passed on to Mexico but it was ceded to the U.S. who won the Mexican - American War (1846-48). The post office opened in 1882, and closed, reopening in 1887, at that time the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad reached Isleta, and built a station there.
Route 66 was aligned through the town in 1926, on the old Camino Real and the National Old Trails highway, which ran next to the railroad from Laguna to Isleta. In 1937 it was realigned here due to the "Laguna cut-off" that shortened the road bypassing both Isleta and Los Lunas (neighboring Peralta had already been bypassed when the road was realigned on the western side of the Rio Grande in 1928).
The 1937 USGS map of the area shows Barelas Bridge in Albuquerque and a few scattered houses at "Five Points" south of Atrisco and at Armijo. Route 66 runs along with US 85 through irrigated farmland all the way to Isleta.
The people of Isleta, which are Tiwa are federally recognized as a Native American tribe.
Where to Stay
There is lodging along Old Route 66 in Isleta:
>> Book your Hotels in Isleta
Lodging Near Isleta along Route 66
The Santa Fe Route 66 segment
Accommodation Search box:
>> There are RV campgrounds in neighboring Albuquerque.
Weather in Isleta
Isleta is located in the Rio Grande Valley; its climate is sunny (278 sunny days per year) and very dry (very low relative humidity).
The high elevation and the dry air provoke large swings between day and night temperatures, even in summer.
Average High ⁄ Low Temperatures during summer (Jul.) are: 92 ⁄ and 65 °F (33 ⁄ 18 °C). The average during winter (Jan) are: 47 ⁄ and 24 °F (8 ⁄ -4 °C)
Summers are hot and winters are relatively cold. Rainfall tends to fall during the summer monsoon season (July through September), and adds up to about 11 in. per year (279 mm). Shielded by mountains to the east, snowfall is quite low: about 10 inches (25 cm) per year.
The tornado risk in Isleta is nil: Bernalillo County has no Tornado watches.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Getting to Isleta
Use the 1930s US 66 which now is NM-314 and NM-6, from the Interstate I-25 (with US 85), take Exits 209 or 213 into Isleta. To the north is the later US-66 and I-40.
Map of Route 66 through Isleta New Mexico
See the alignment of US 66 in this location, on our New Mexico Route 66 Map, it has the complete alignment across the state with all the towns along it.
Route 66 drive through Isleta
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 Isleta through Pecos, Santa Fe and Bernalillo.
Isleta is also on this alignment, south of Albuquerque, which was also replaced in 1937 by the "Laguna Cutoff" which moved US66 north between Albuquerque and Mesita, bypassing Los Lunas and Isleta.
Below is full information on Route 66's 1926 alignment in Isleta.
Isleta, New Mexico: Attractions & Sights
Isleta its Attractions
Much of the old agricultural area around Isleta has been lost (the land that was non-reservation was urbanized and developed into commercial buildings), see NM 47 (the former Route 66 alignment from Isleta south to Los Lunas) as an example.
The original appearance of the pueblo can be seen in this postcard below, and the pueblo is a Historic Landmark:
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places - U.S. Historic district - N.M. State Register of Cultural Properties
Isleta, New Mexico
This ancient native pueblo, with the mission established in 1622 and the church originally built in 1629 -razed in 1680- and rebuilt in 1712, is worth visiting.
Pueblo Of Isleta, New Mexico, Native American Fred Harvey Postcard ca 1920s
Enjoy your visit with respect:
Important rules of etiquette during your visit to a Pueblo
Pueblos are on tribal lands and the local customs, religion and traditions must be respected.
- Check that access is allowed (leaders may restrict access for private ceremonies) and be prepared to pay an access fee
- Photography. Taking photos may be totally prohibited or a permit may be required. Check with the Tribal Office. Even if you have a permit, always request permission before taking a photo of a tribal member. Leave your cell phone out of sight and silence it, as it could be confiscated
- Don't litter. Don't carry or use alcohol or drugs
- "Off Limits" signs must be respected. Don't remove artifacts or pottery shards
- Don't speed. Respect traffic signs
- Respect the local people. Dances are not a show, they are a ceremony. Show respect and remain silent at all ceremonies
- Cemeteries, Kivas, ceremonial rooms are sacred places and entry is not allowed for non-Pueblo people
San Agustín de la Isleta Mission
The San Agustín de la Isleta Mission is a Franciscan church built by Juan de Salas in 1639, rebuilt in 1712 and later modified to adapt it to contemporary church design -eliminating its former flat roof, in the 1900s.
San Agustín de la Isleta Mission in Isleta, NM
Route 66 in Isleta
Albuquerque to Isleta
The 13.6 mile drive is shown here: Map with directions from Albuquerque to Isleta.
The 1926 aligment of Route 66 through Isleta
The Spanish colony in New Mexico was linked to the Virreinato de Nueva España (Viceroyalty of New Spain), what now is Mexico by a road, the "Camino Real" or "Royal Highway". It was a fairly good road which traders, soldiers and residents used, and it followed the Rio Grande.
U.S. Highway 85 boasts that it is the "oldest highway in America" because it runs along the Camino Real. (Route 66 did so too, from 1926 to 1937).
The first alignment of Route 66 established in 1926, avoided the crossing from Santa Rosa to Moriarty, instead it took a wide curve north towards Las Vegas NM, and then passed through Pecos and the state capital, Santa Fe, curving south into Albuquerque.
From here it went through the southern Barelas district to cross the Rio Grande River along the Barela Bridge at a place where in the past was the ford of the Camino Real.
On the west side of the river were the scattered houses at Armijo:
Settled in 1693 by José de Armijo, a native of Zacatecas, before Albuquerque was founded. The post office opened in 1883, and finally closed in 1936.
Here the road turned south along the west bank of the river, among irrigation ditches or "acequias" and after 10 miles it reached Isleta.
It crossed the river again, going through Peralta and then, for the third time crossed the Rio Grande into Los Lunas.
From here it headed west next to the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe railroad tracks climbing out of the Rio Grande Valley, curving towards Suwanee.
It is 53.4 miles from Albuquerque to Suwanee via Isleta as shown in this Map with directions.
The map below, from 1927 shows this alignment, paved up to Isleta and improved from there west through Peralta and Los Lunas:
The map is from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection, under Fair usage and its BY-NC-SA 3.0, License. Metadata: Author and Publisher: Rand McNally and Company, Chicago. Date: 1927. Full Title: Rand McNally junior auto road map Arizona, New Mexico. Copyright by Rand McNally & Co., Chicago, Ill. (1927). List No: 5755.032 Page No: 66-67 Series No: 36.
US 66 was paved by 1928 and realigned along the west bank of the Rio Grande in 1931 to remove the two additional crossings of the river south of Albuquerque's Barelas Bridge, bypassing Peralta (what now is NM-47 used to be US66).
1937 Laguna Cut Off
The new bridge across the Rio Grande just west of Old Town was completed in 1931 and funding was secured for a bridge across the Rio Puerco west of ABQ, wich was built by 1933 paved the way to another realignment.
The "Laguna Cut-Off" (named after the Laguna Mission Village west of ABQ and Los Lunas): in 1937 the whole highway was moved north. It used the new bridges and climbed out of Albuquerque westwards and took a straight course towards Suwanee and Laguna. Both Isleta and Los Lunas had been cutoff.
This is the map of the shorter alignment (33.2 miles long) that bypassed Isleta: Map with directions.
For more details on the northern section: the 1926 - 1937 Alignment of Route 66 through Santa Fe, read about the The Santa Fe Loop which covers the old US 66 between Santa Rosa and Albuquerque.
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.
Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat.