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Santa Rosa, Guadalupe County, New Mexico

Downtown Santa Rosa, NM

Downtown Santa Rosa, NM

Santa Rosa is a city in and the county seat of Guadalupe County, New Mexico, United States. The population was 2,744 at the 2000 census. It lies between Albuquerque and Tucumcari, situated on the Pecos River at the intersection of Interstate 40, U.S. Route 54, and U.S. Route 84. The city is located west of, but not within, the Llano Estacado or “staked plains” of eastern New Mexico and west Texas.

Guadalupe Courthouse in Santa Rosa, NM

Guadalupe Courthouse in Santa Rosa, NM

History

The first European settlement in the area was Aqua Negra Chiquita, “Little Black Water” in Spanish, in 1865. The name was changed in 1890 to Santa Rosa (Spanish for “Holy Rose”) referring to a chapel that Don Celso Baca (the founder of the city) built and named after both his mother Rosa and Saint Rose of Lima. The “Rosa” may also refer to the roses in the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe and is indicative of the Catholicism of the Spanish colonizers who settled in the area.

Santa Rosa was connected by railroad to Chicago, El Paso, and the world at large in the early 1900s.

John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath

Santa Rosa’s stretch of U.S. Route 66 is part of film history. When John Steinbeck’s epic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, was made into a movie, director John Ford used Santa Rosa for the memorable train scene. Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) watches a freight train steam over the Pecos River railroad bridge, into the sunset. It was also one of shooting scenes for Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw starring Lynda Carter in the titular role.

The town was the childhood home of author Rudolfo Anaya, and is the basis for the fictional town of Guadalupe in his autobiographical novel Bless Me, Ultima.

New wing of the Guadalupe Courthouse in Santa Rosa, NM

New wing of the Guadalupe Courthouse in Santa Rosa, NM

Geography

Tthe Blue Hole pool in Santa Rosa, NM

Tthe Blue Hole pool in Santa Rosa, NM

Santa Rosa has many natural lakes, an anomaly in the dry Desert climate surrounding it. These are sinkholes that form in the limestone bedrock of the area and fill with water, and thus the lakes are connected by a network of underground, water-filled tunnels. The most famous of these is Blue Hole, a popular spot for diving, where cool 61 °F (16 °C) water forms a lake over 81 ft (25 m) deep.

Scuba divers taking advantage of the clear blue water at the Blue Hole pool in Santa Rosa, NM

Scuba divers taking advantage of the clear blue water at the Blue Hole pool in Santa Rosa, NM

The Blue Hole of Santa Rosa is a circular, bell shaped pool east of Santa Rosa, New Mexico that is one of the most popular dive destinations in the US for SCUBA diving and training. The Blue Hole is an artesian well that was once used as a fish hatchery. It is a clear blue body of water with a constant 64 °F (18 °C) temperature and constant inflow of 3000 gallons per minute. While the surface is only 80 feet (24 m) in diameter, it expands to a diameter of 130 feet (40 m) at the bottom.[3]

Since Route 66 and Interstate 40 pass through the Sandia Mountains on the way back to Albuquerque, NM, it is necessary for divers to use high-altitude dive tables to compute the dive profile and decompression stops when diving in the Blue Hole.

A diving permit is required to use the pool and can be obtained from the city of Santa Rosa ($8 for a one-week permit).

Tanks may be filled or rented as well as some equipment at a private dive shop located at the site.

Sports

Santa Rosa High School’s football team won back-to-back-to-back state championships in the 2010, 2011, and 2012 AA state championships. The 2010 and 2011 victories were won against teams which were undefeated until the championship. In 2010 the Santa Rosa Lions beat the Tularosa Wildcats, and in 2011 the Santa Rosa Lions beat the Eunice Cardinals. In 2012, the Santa Rosa Lions went undefeated, shutting out the Tularosa Wildcats in the championship. The Lions also won championships in 1955, 1993, 1996, 1998, and 2007.

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Touring N.M. – Stop and Stay for a While

Jon Knudsen, August 2014

Today’s travelers might think that Santa Rosa, New Mexico, was a byproduct of Route 66, and that this popular stop for gas or a restroom 110 miles east of Albuquerque came into being because of the motoring public. But there has been a settlement here named Santa Rosa for nearly 150 years.

Actually, travelers have been stopping here for centuries. The reason comes down to one word: Water. Santa Rosa’s natural springs have brought many to this area, including conquistador Francisco Coronado, Comancheros, cattlemen, railroads, and nowadays…scuba divers.

But it was in 1870 when Don Celso Baca decided to build a chapel here near the Pecos River. He dedicated the chapel to the first canonized saint in the New World: Santa Rosa de Lima. Rosa was also the name of Don Celso’s late mother, who is buried somewhere beneath its stone walls. The walls of the chapel which gave its name to this town, La Capilla de Santa Rosa, still stand in a small cemetery about half mile south of a newer and grander Catholic church bearing the name of Saint Rose.

But mostly Santa Rosa remains a stopover on the road to somewhere else. The byway adventure of Route 66 still draws travelers into this city of 2,700 people. The round face of a grinning man and his Club Cafe are iconic roadsigns in the history of the Mother Road. The Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa is a great place to revisit this part of the story of the west.

However, for many people in the western half of the U.S., Santa Rosa is more than a stopover, it is a premier destination. Scuba divers are attracted to one special artesian pool known as The Blue Hole. It is only 60 feet in diameter at the surface, although it is bell-shaped and somewhat wider under water. However, the water when undisturbed is crystal clear and is 81 feet deep. There is a screen at the very bottom of the pool to keep divers out of dangerous and seemingly unending passages.

Family swimming is available to all at nearby Park Lake, which is said to be the largest swimming pool in the Southwest and features a 32-foot water slide. The city also offers fishing, golf and camping. Exiting from Interstate 40 here is definitely a worthwhile experience.

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