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The land of Billy the Kid

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By Wayne Lazarus on July 5th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Lincoln County in Southern New Mexico has just about everything to tempt visitors — mountain vistas, scenic valleys, extensive history, outdoor recreation, casinos and art. Located about 170 miles from Albuquerque, the Billy the Kid National Scenic Byway showcases the diversity of views, entertainment and culture in this area.

Billy the Kid-Lincoln Jail-dm

Billy the Kid- Lincoln Jail

Stop in the town of Lincoln to learn abut the famous Lincoln County War, in which two groups (one including Billy) shot it out for control of the mercantile operation in town during the 1870s. Before the “war” had ended, 19 men had died and the governor had intervened. Some of the buildings involved can still be seen, including the courthouse, the jail (from which Billy escaped) and the Montano store.

East along the Byway through the Lincoln National Forest is Hondo, home to several notable art galleries. Westward along route 48 (still a part of the Byway) is the resort town of Ruidoso, with its casinos, race tracks and ski resorts. The Hubbard Museum of the American West explains the contribution of the horse to this part of the country in its Museum of the Horse. Nearby are the Mescalero Indian Reservation and the White Sands National Monument. Evidence of ancient people can be seen at the Three Rivers Petroglyph B.L. M. Recreation site. Plan to overnight in Ruidoso and see the rest of the trail from there.

Museum of the American West

Museum of the American West

North of Ruidoso on 48 is Capitan, home to Smokey the Bear. Rescued during a 1950 forest fire in the area, the baby brown bear with burned paws was sent to Washington D.C. to live at the National Zoo. His popularity resulted in so much mail that he was given his own zip code. He lived for 26 years and is buried in Capitan. You can learn more about him at the Smokey Bear Museum and Gift Shop.

In July the Trail becomes especially desirable to art collectors, as the Lincoln County Art Loop Studio Tour is scheduled the first weekend after the fourth. By taking the self-guided drive to studios and galleries, visitors can see the work of more than 30 artists who live and work in the area.

(Photos courtesy New Mexico Tourism Department. Used with permission.)

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