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Catron County, New Mexico

Catron County, New Mexico
Map of New Mexico highlighting Catron County
Location in the state of New Mexico
Map of the United States highlighting New Mexico
New Mexico's location in the U.S.
Founded February 25, 1921
Named for Thomas B. Catron
Seat Reserve
Largest village Reserve
 • Total 6,929 sq mi (17,946 km2)
 • Land 6,924 sq mi (17,933 km2)
 • Water 5.5 sq mi (14 km2), 0.08%
 • (2010) 3,725
 • Density 0.5/sq mi (0/km²)
Congressional district 2nd
Time zone Mountain: UTC-7/-6
Website .us.catroncountywww

Catron County is a county located in the U.S. state of New Mexico. As of the 2010 census, the population was 3,725,[1] making it the third-least populous county in New Mexico. Its county seat is Reserve.[2] Catron County is the largest county by area in New Mexico.


  • History 1
  • Geography 2
    • Mountains 2.1
    • Bodies of water 2.2
    • Forests 2.3
    • Adjacent counties 2.4
    • National protected areas 2.5
  • Demographics 3
    • 2010 3.1
    • 2000 3.2
  • Points of interest 4
  • Communities 5
    • Village 5.1
    • Census-designated places 5.2
    • Unincorporated communities 5.3
  • Notable people 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8


Settlement in the Catron County region dates to some of the earliest in the Americas. During the Clovis period between 10999 BC 8000 BC and Folsom period between 7999 BC and 5999 BC, the Ake Site was occupied near Datil.[3] Bat Cave, near Horse Springs, was occupied around 3,500 BC.

The Mimbres culture was part of the Mogollon people who lived throughout the Catron County area from AD 1000-1130 AD. Their art is renowned for its beauty.

In 1598, the region was declared part of Santa Fé de Nuevo México, a province in New Spain. The province remained in Spanish control until Mexico's declaration of independence in 1821. Under the 1824 Constitution of Mexico, it became the federally-administered Territory of New Mexico. European settlement of this region reportedly started with the Spanish, and intensified when New Mexico was admitted to the United States.

Mexico ceded the region to the U.S. in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 after the Mexican-American War. In 1849, President Zachary Taylor proposed that New Mexico, including this region, immediately become a state to sidestep political conflict over slavery in the territories. That did not happen.

In 1880, Sergeant Chiricahua Apache warriors led by Victorio in the Battle of Fort Tularosa. Four years later, self-appointed sheriff Elfego Baca was the hero of the so-called Frisco Shootout in San Francisco Plaza.

In the mid-1880s Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch gang holed up at a ranch near Alma, New Mexico. Notorious outlaw Tom Ketchum also lived in Catron County around this time.

Catron County's lands were part of Socorro County from the creation of Santa Fé de Nuevo México until 1921. At that split, Catron county was named for Thomas B. Catron, a leading figure in New Mexico statehood, and its first senator. In 1927, the State Legislature attempted to abolish both Socorro and Catron in order to create a new Rio Grande County. A court suit voided this act and the two counties retained their independence.[4]

The Lightning Field, an art installation, brought national attention to Quemado in the late 1970s.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 6,929 square miles (17,950 km2), of which 6,924 square miles (17,930 km2) is land and 5.5 square miles (14 km2) (0.08%) is water.[5]

Catron County is the largest county, by area, in New Mexico. At almost 7,000 square miles (18,000 km2), Catron County is larger than four states. With a population of only 3,400 people, the county is as sparsely populated as many an old West frontier area. The elk population at some 12,000 head, makes up for the sparse people population.

Within the boundaries of Catron County lie parts of the Gila National Forest, the Apache National Forest and the Cibola National Forest. The establishment of these national forests, in the past called "forest reserves," led to the name Reserve being given to a village on the San Francisco River, which also serves as the County Seat. There are no stop lights in the whole county, so when license tests are given in Reserve, an artificial portable stop light is set up in a parking lot.

Bordering Arizona, Catron County affords the shortest route between Albuquerque and Phoenix or Tucson. Reserve can also be reached by following U.S. Route 180 north from Silver City and New Mexico State Road 12 east for a total of 99 miles (159 km).

In Catron County there is a volcanic area that until recently contained sufficient heat to cause steam to rise after a slight rain. It is called Burning Mountain and appears to have been used by the Apache for healing purposes.[6] The county is home to the Red Hill Volcanic Field as well as the Plains of San Agustin.


Bodies of water


Adjacent counties

National protected areas



Whereas according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau:


As of the census[12] of 2000, there were 3,543 people, 1,584 households, and 1,040 families residing in the county. The population density was 0.51 people per square mile (0.20/km²). There were 2,548 housing units at an average density of 0.37 per square mile (0.14/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 87.75% White, 0.28% Black or African American, 2.20% Native American, 0.68% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 5.42% from other races, and 3.61% from two or more races. 19.16% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 1,584 households out of which 22.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.40% were married couples living together, 7.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.30% were non-families. 30.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.75.

In the county the population was spread out with 21.10% under the age of 18, 4.20% from 18 to 24, 19.50% from 25 to 44, 36.40% from 45 to 64, and 18.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48 years. For every 100 females there were 104.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $23,892, and the median income for a family was $30,742. Males had a median income of $26,064 versus $18,315 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,951. About 17.40% of families and 24.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.60% of those under age 18 and 14.90% of those age 65 or over.

Points of interest



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b (nd) National Register of Historic Places - Catron County, New Mexico. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  4. ^ "History of Socorro County", Socorro Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved December 21, 2011.
  5. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved January 1, 2015. 
  6. ^ (nd) Chapter 4, Section IV. Native American Sacred Sites and the Department of Defense. Retrieved June 12, 2007.
  7. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  8. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 1, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved January 1, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 1, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 1, 2015. 
  12. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  13. ^ Padilla, L. (2003) "Bat Caving on the Plains of San Agustin". Retrieved November 17, 2010.

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