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A Mission among the Navajo

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Rehoboth is located on the Historic segment of Route 66 (a Historical Landmark) and is best known for its Biblical verse sign. From Rehoboth you can visit the catastrophic site of the The Church Rock Uranium Mill Spill, the nearby Church Rock village, get a chance to explore the Kit Carson Cave and the red rock sandstone spires close to it.

Rehoboth NM

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About Rehoboth, New Mexico

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 6,581 ft (2.006 m). Population: n⁄a (2010).
Time zone: Mountain (MST): UTC minus 7 hours. Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6).

Rehoboth is an unincorporated community located just off Route 66, in McKinley County, New Mexico, 5 miles east of Gallup. See a Map of Rehoboth.

Sign at Rehoboth with a Biblical verse; Rehoboth, New Mexico

Sign with biblical verse at Rehoboth, New Mexico
A view of the Sign with a biblical verse at Rehoboth, NM by Route 66, Jeff Banaszak.
Read More about this sign

The area where Rehoboth is located has been populated for the last 10,000 years. The Paleo-Indians later evolved into the Historic Zuni and Navajo people that were encountered by the Spanish when they reached the area in 1540.

The Spanish expedition led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado passed through this area (Zuni Pueblo) but did not settle it, they were seeking gold. Settlement under the Spanish crown began in 1597 and lasted until 1821, when Mexico became independent and the territory became a part of the new country.

The fierce Navajo people never allowed the Spanish to settle the area, and for over 200 years, they raided the pueblos of Zuni, Laguna, Acoma and others on the Rio Grande River and close to Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

After the Mexican - American War (1846 - 48) in which Mexico was defeated and ceded New Mexico to the US, the American Army took action to subdue the Navajo warriors.

The army established the first Fort Wingate near Grants in 1862, and used it as a base for its campaigns. Once the Navajo had been defeated and confined to the Navajo Reservation, the fort was moved it to its present location in 1864, at Wingate, just to the east of Rehoboth on the old wagon road linking Albuquerque, the Laguna Missions and the land of the Navajo, with Fort Defiance on the Arizona - New Mexico border.

In 1881, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (later purchased by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway) laid its tracks across the Continental Divide and down the Western Rio Puerco River towards Gallup. They set up a station 6 mi. east of Gallup and called it "Zuni".

The Mission, background and history

The Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s led to the appearance of different Christian Churches, one of them was inspired by John Calvin and flourished in the Netherlands; it later became the state church which persecuted a branch that had split from it: a "grassroots" movement that became the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), a branch of Dutch Calvinism.

The CRC leaders decided to escape famine and persecution by mitrating to America in 1848. They settled in Holland, Michigan and soon built ties with the American Dutch Reformed Church in New York and New Jersey. But in 1857 part of the flock seceded and as a result, the Christian Reformed Church was born.

They spread out over American to preach and find new places to settle. In 1896 they began their ministry among the Navajo people in New Mexico and the following year, among the Zuni people. In 1899 a church was organized in Fort Defiance (in Arizona, just next to the New Mexico border, in Navajo Territory).

They decided to settle in an area closer to the Natives and chose a spot 5 miles to the east of Gallup, next to the stage road and the railway. They named it Rehoboth.

The name: Rehoboth

The name is of Jewish origin, and is found in the Bible. It is a Hebrew word (Rehovot) meaning "broad places", "room". And the vers that inspired the mission's name are found in Genesis 26:22, where Isaac names a well "Rehoboth".

«He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth saying, "Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land"»

On October 1, 1903 they held the first service at the Rehoboth Indian Mission, in the settlement they created in New Mexico. By 1906 they had organized the first permanent church organized in New Mexico by moving the Fort Defiance chuch there.

The Rehoboth Mission Hospital was organized in 1910. That year the post office was created and named Rehoboth.

Navajo Reservation

The Reservation spans over 9 million acres and lies 20 miles north of Rehoboth. Larger than Massachusetts and New Jersey together.

The Navajo are actually the Diné people, which in their language means jut that: "The People". The Spaniards called them "Apaches de Navajo", after an old Tigua pueblo, Navahu.

In 1914 New Mexico State Highway #6 was built following the railroad and was as part of the National Old Trails Highway system. In 1926 Route 66 was aligned just 0.1 miles to the north of the village which also included a boarding school for the Navajo children which were "Americanized" in what was believed the best method in those days: they dressed them like "white men", taught them English, cut their hair and tried to erase their native culture.

In 1946, Jack DeVere Rittenhouse wrote his "Guide Book to Highway 66" which, from east to west, mentions the nearby villages of Perea, the entrance to Fort Wingate and the historical marker that pointed towards the Kit Carson Caves.

Closer to Rehoboth was the Kirk Brothers Trading Post which had a "store, cabins no gas" and finally the entrance to "Rehoboth Mission off US66". To the west, was Gallup.


Beginning in the late 1950s, the Interstate system gradually replaced Route 66, which in this section is preserved as the North Frontage Road of I-40, and is a Historic Landmark.

Rehoboth: Where to Stay

There is lodging very close to Rehoboth along Route 66:

> > Book your Hotel in neighboring Gallup

Lodging Near Rehoboth along Route 66

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The Santa Fe Route 66 segment

Find your room nearby, in Gallup

> > There are RV campgrounds close by, at Gallup

The weather in Rehoboth

Rehoboth is located close to the continental divide in the Rocky Mountains in western New Mexico. Its climate is dry and semi-arid. Summers are hot summers (with cool nights) and winters are cold.

There is a great temperature swing between day and night due to the dry air and the altitude. Expect cold winter nights and fresh summer ones.

The average summer high temperature is about 89°F (32°C) with an average low of 51°F (11°C). Winter average high is 45°F (7°C) with an average low below freezing: 11°F (-12°C).

Rainfall is scarce: 11.5 in (292 mm) per year. Most falls between July and Nov. (6.81 in or 173 mm). There are about 70 days per year with precipitation each year.

Snow is frequent and quite heavy during winter (30.4 inches or 77.2 cm). You may encounter snow at any time between October and May.

Tornado risk

There is no tornado risk in Rehoboth: McKinley County has no Tornado watches. Route 66 west of the Rio Grande River in NM and all the way to California has no tornado events at all.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.

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

Getting to Rehoboth

Five miles to the west is the city of Gallup and further west is the Arizona state line (29 miles). To the east is the "Continental Divide" Continental Divide followed by Grants (57 mi.). Further east is Albuquerque (136 mi.)

Along the original Route 66 between 1926 and 1937, lies Santa Fe (194 mi.), Pecos and Las Vegas (New Mexico).

Map U.S. 66 in Rehoboth New Mexico

See the alignment of US 66 in Rehoboth, 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 Rehoboth. The color key for this town is:

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment.
Gaps show where I-40 & overlaies on old alignment.
Green: The 1926 - 1937 alignment through Santa Fe.

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

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.

Rehoboth: its Attractions

Landmarks, Route 66 sights

A Mission on Route 66

The small village was born a Mission among the Navajo, and lies just to the south of Route 66 overshadowed by neighboring Gallup. Stop by the famous "sign", visit Kit Carson Cave and the site of the worst radioactive spillage in the US.

The location: red sandstone hills

Navajo Church

This natural feature is on the north side of the road, and is a sharp rocky pinnacle of white sandstone around 200 ft. high (61 m) mounted on top of red sandstone. It is a sacred spot for the Navajo people.

Pyramid Rock

Just west of the "church" is another sandstone hill shaped like a cone, the Pyramid Rock.

Pyramid Rock and Navajo Church, near Gallup, NM

Pyramid Rock and Navajo Church, near Gallup, NM, click image for street view

To the west of Wingate, Route 66 and I-40 descend next to the Western Rio Puerco River on the Pacific Ocean side of the Continental Divide.

On the north side are the red shale rocks of the southern tip of the Colorado Plateau. These sandstone rocks are colored in different tones of red and also white.

These sediments were laid down almost 180 million years ago in a shallow sea (Sundance Sea) that covered the western and central US and Canada. The sand dunes, beaches and tidal flats would become these rocks, known as the "Entrada Sandstone".

You can see the two main natural features in the area on the north side of US 66 and I-40 (good views about 2.3 mi east of Rehoboth) are Navajo Church d to the west of it, Pyramid Rock.

The "sign" at Rehoboth

A Biblical verse sign

There is a very interesting sign in Rehoboth, it is a wooden structure mounted in two roghly hewn stone columns, which has two signs hanging from its upper beam.

The sign is shown in the image above.

One says in bold white letters: "REHOBOTH", and the other "... Now the Lord has given us room we shall flourish in the land. Gen 26:22".

The sign post is located here: Street view and Map with location

Tours & Itineraries near Rehoboth

There are several tours that you can do near Rehoboth, along Route 66 and even further afield.

Nearby Route 66 Towns

You can head towards the west and visit Gallup (5 mi.) or east and visit Wingate, with its Historic Old West Fort (7 mi.), and even further, Grants (57 mi.)


The Church Rock Uranium Mill Spill

The dam site is located 13.6 miles by road from Rehoboth, east along US 66 and then north along NM-566; this Map shows how to get there.

A little known fact about a nuclear accident in western New Mexico.

On July 16, 1979, at the United Nuclear Corporation's facilities in Church Rock, a dam that contained a disposal pond with the tailings of a uranium mill burst. The contents spilled out and ran downhill along a stream that flowed into the Western Rio Puerco River, the mass of contaminated water and radioactive mill waste sludge continued downstream for 80 miles (130 km) all the way into Navajo County and the Navajo Nation in Arizona.

More than one thousand tons of solid waste and 93 million gallons (352.050 m3) of acidic sludge, all of it radioactive, were spilled in this accident.

It released more radioactivity into the environemnt than the more famous Three Mile Island reactor event which happened that same year.

The spill contaminated groundwater and the Puerco River water used for irrigation and livestock became unusable.

Only 2 nuclear disasters have released more radiation: those at Fukushima and Chernobyl.

Currently the abandoned uranium mines and the spill site are monitored.

Further reading see the EPA Report 1983 (The Church Rock Uranium Mill Tailings Spill: A Health and Environmental Assessment) and Dahr Jamail Toxic Legacy: Uranium Mining in New Mexico.

Church Rock

This small village is also known by its Navajo name: "Tsé Íi'áhi" which means "Rock Pinnacle" and also "Kin Litsoí Sinil" meaning "Yellow Houses Place", in allusion to the houses built for Navajo workers at the Fort Wingate ammo Depot during World War II.

It is located 3.3 miles east of Rehoboth, on the north side of I-40, Route 66 and the railway tracks. Just next to the entrance to Red Rock Park.

The first building in the area was the "Outlaw Trading Post" ca. 1884. Nowadays there is a Trading Post with the same name in the area.

It is not mentioned in Rittenhouse's 1946 Guide Book to Route 66, and it did not appear in many maps printed between 1927 and 1959. A native town in the land of the Navajo.

Kit Carson Cave

6.2 miles drive from Rehoboth along Old Route 66 and then north along Highway 566.

See the Map with directions from Rehoboth to Kit Carson Cave.

A now gone marker: Kit Carson Cave near Fort Rehoboth on Route 66, New Mexico

Postcard showing the now gone Kit Carson Cave historic marker on Route 66, Rehoboth Route 66, New Mexico
Kit Carson Cave marker, now gone on a 1950s postcard, Mirro-Krome Card by H.S. Crocker Co., Inc. San Francisco California

Though Rittenhouse fails to mention Church Rock village, he does mention a now disappeared historical marker, the "Kit Carson Caves" Marker.

This was a popular site in the 1940s and 50s, and postcards were printed depicting it. However nowasdays its popularity has waned, perhaps because its namesake, Kit Carson is now not such a well known character.

It is likely that the Historic Marker by Route 66 was removed during road building, but for some reason was not replaced.

The drive towards the Cave will let you see both Navajo Church and Pyramid Rock, to the west. The countryside is also great, enjoy the red sandstone in Navajo country.

Kit Carson a Hero or an Indian killer?

Christopher Houston (Kit) Carson (1809 - 1868)

Christopher "Kit" Carson. Public Domain

Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson (1809 - 1868), was a trapper and scout. He fought in the American Civil War. He acted in New Mexico under General James Carleton, and at times did not obey his orders (such as "kill al the Indian men"), but even though he tried to resign his commission saying that he had joined the army to fight the Confederates not the Indians, he conducted an attrition war against the Navajo that forced them, starving, to surrender.

He did not oversee the deadly "Long Walk" that took them to their new reservation at Bosque Redondo. He retired to Taos where he was regarded as a hero, having defeated the ruthless Navajo. The terrible methods were those enforced by Gen. Carleton, Carson merely was a man of his time, and carried out his orders.

Like many white men of his day, he was neither a friend nor an enemy of the Native Americans, he even acted as an Indian agent for the Ute Tribe (1854 - 1861).

Revisionist history now paints him as a bloody racist (even though his first and seond wives were Native Americans). The Navajo people, obviously distrusted him, and modern Diné are entitled to consider him as they wish to, and that is why, in 2014 they renamed the Kit Carson Park in Taos NM as Red Willow Park, after the Tiwa name for Taos.

The Old alignment of Route 66 near Rehoboth

route 66 shield New Mexico

Route 66 Near Rehoboth

At Continental Divide the old road ends in a Dead End just west of Exit 43. So you will have to get on I-40 at that point and head west towards Gallup. This segment runs along I-40 for several miles until reaching Exit 36. At this point you can leave I-40 and return to the North Frontage Rd. which here is another original and Historic segment of Route 66:

Historic Route 66 from Iyanbito to Rehobeth

Old Route 66Rehoboth, NM.

National Historic Landmark

The road was built as part of the National Old Trails Highway which became New Mexico state highway 6 in 1914. In 1926 it was incorporated into the alignment of U.S. Highway 66.

It runs along the valley of the Rio Puerco of the West, which receives the inflow of the water heading towards the Pacific Ocean from the Continental Divide.

The red colored sandstone on the north side of the highway are quite a sight, with Pyramid and the Navajo Church among them.

It was improved during the Great Depression and saw a large flow of migrants heading west towards California during the Dust Bowl period. It was paved by 1937 and after 1956, was replaced by Interstate 40.

Now it is the frontage road of I-40, on the north side of the Interstate at Exit 36 (Iyanbito) passing through Perea and Wingate, all the way to Rehobeth, just before the junction of I-40 and Route 66 at Gallup.

See The map from Exit 36 to Gallup (Historic Segment).

> > See the previous segment Grants to Thoreau

> > See the next segment Gallup to Arizona State Line.

National and State Parks

There are some parks realtively close to Rehoboth. We have described them in our Grants to Gallup tour and in the Ventana Rock Arch tour, which visit the El Malpais National Conservation Area, the El Malpais National Monument and El Morro National Monument.

Not to far east, is the Bluewater Lake State Park with an RV campground.

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

Christian Reformed Church website.

Sherry Robinson, Jul 16, 2014 Kit Carson Park in Taos will have a new name

Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, 1946. A Guide Book to Highway 66.

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.