Fort Stanton, New Mexico

Written by on February 12, 2018 in NM History & Heritage - No comments

Fort Stanton, New Mexico, has been an integral part of the history of the American Southwest for many years. Built along the Bonito River in the Capitan Mountains, the Fort also has views of the Sacramento Mountains and Sierra Blanca Peak so bring your camera for some outstanding photographs.
With good water and arable land, the site has always attracted people. First to find the site were the ancient native peoples, followed by the Spanish and Mexican settlers, and finally, the United States Military established a fort on the site to protect settlers journeying west. Named after Captain Henry W. Stanton, the Fort was first established in 1855. Captain Stanton was killed fighting the Apaches later that same year.

During the Civil War, Confederate forces seized the Fort in 1861, but held it only for a short time. In 1896, the Fort was closed and abandoned by the military; however, the U.S. Department of Public Health acquired it and opened a tuberculosis hospital. Selected for its healthful climate, it served some 5,000 sailor patients between 1899 and 1953, 1,500 of whom are buried in the Maritime Cemetery on a hillside overlooking the Fort. During the Great Depression, Fort Stanton was home to the Civilian Conservation Corp, and eventually served as an internment camp for German and Japanese soldiers (or families) during the war. In 1953, the Fort was given to the State of New Mexico and used first as a tubercular hospital and then, from the 1960s until 1995, as the State Hospital for the Developmentally Handicapped. For a short time it was a low security women’s prison and has housed several juvenile, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.

Finally, when the State decided to dispose of the property, Fort Stanton, Inc., a nonprofit corporation (501-c-3), was created in 1997 to save this national treasure and seek its adaptive reconstruction as a living history center. Today, Fort Stanton partners with the Bureau of Land Management to oversee thousands of acres, which allow visitors to enjoy nearly 100 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, as well as great camping areas. The BLM also operates an extensive caving program that includes the Fort Stanton and Snowy River caves, although the caves are not yet open to the public. In addition, the Fort partners with the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, to help preserve the 53 buildings situated along the Rio Bonito.

Your first stop should be the museum with great exhibits and a terrific video on the rich history of the area. Hiking and horseback riding trails crisscross the surrounding area, and the setting offers a great place to pitch a tent and camp or picnic. Don’t forget to stop at the store on your way out for great items detailing the history of the Fort.

Nearby attractions include:
White Sands National Monument
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park
Three Rivers Petroglyph National Recreation Site
Ski Apache Ski Resort

P.O. Box 1
104 Kit Carson Rd
Fort Stanton, NM 88323

Step Back into New Mexico History

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