Western Heritage Museum & Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame

Western Heritage Museum to Add Nature Trails, Sculptures

Western Heritage Museum to Add Nature Trails, Sculptures photo
Nature Trail Map

2/25/2010 1:27:23 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. The Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame will soon begin development of two innovative nature trails, which will reflect both the flora and fauna of the region through native plantings and an outdoor life-sized wildlife sculpture exhibit by renowned, award-winning artist Curtis Fort of Tatum. 

One nature trail, which will lie just northeast of the main Museum entrance, will represent the Llano Estacado, or “Staked Plains,” with its distinctively flat terrain that the Spanish explorer Coronado referred to in his 1540-1542 expedition. The Llano Estacado stretches 250 miles north to south and 150 miles east to west, making it one of the world’s largest mesas or tablelands.

The second nature trail, to the southeast of the main entrance, will replicate the sand hill region of the Queracho Plains just off the western edge of the Caprock.  Many people are surprised to learn that the Queracho Plains, which are actually at the upper end of the Chihuahuan Desert, are dominated by one of the largest continuous oak forests in the Southwest. Because of the Plains’ sandy base, however, the oak trees only protrude from the surface to a height reaching the shin of a human, hence the name “Shin Oak” or shinnery.” Of the many species of flora growing on the Queracho Plains, shinnery is the dominant plant, although each of the trails will be landscaped with a variety of other plantings common to the region, such as cholla, pricklypear, yucca, salt cedar, tumbleweed, catclaw, mesquite, greasewood, Russian thistle, broomweed, buffalo gourd, locoweed, and others.

Bronze StatuesEach trail will also be home to 23 species of Fort’s bronzes of indigenous mammals, reptiles, birds, and amphibians.  The Llano Estacado trail will boast life-size pronghorn deer (buck and doe), prairie chickens (pair), a sandhill crane, horned lizard, ornate box turtle, coachwhip, blue heron, prairie rattlesnake, ground squirrel, sparrow hawk, whiptailed lizard, roadrunner, jackrabbit, prairie dog, burrowing owl, collared lizard, avocet, killdeer, curlew, coyote, horned lark, and spadefoot toad.  The Queracho Plains trail will have a kangaroo rat, porcupine, mule deer (buck and doe), bobcat and cottontail, bullsnake, blue quail, skunk,badger, gray fox, red-tailed hawk, curved-bill thrasher, mockingbird, loggerheaded shrike, raven, great horned owl, pack rat, meadowlark, morning dove, sand-dune lizard, lesser night hawk, prairie chicken, and diamond-back rattler.

Trail Bronze StatuesAccording to Calvin Smith, Executive Director of the Western Heritage Museum Complex, work on the two trails will begin later this year.  “These will be unique to our region,” he said, “and they’ll give visitors an opportunity to experience our region—the Llano Estacado and the Queracho Plains—in a surprisingly entertaining way.  Incorporating fine art into the natural environment is an innovative approach to education, and it pleases me to think of the numbers of schoolchildren and other visitors who will learn from these permanent exhibits.”

For more information on the Llano Estacado and Queracho Nature Trails or sponsorship opportunities, contact Calvin Smith at (575) 392-6730 or csmith@nmjc.edu.

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About Western Heritage Museum & Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame

A prehistoric sea. Rich grasslands. Millions of buffalo. Ancient Indian tribes. The Great American Desert. Ranchers and homesteaders. World champion cowboys. The discovery of oil!

From the ancient, prehistoric sea that once covered the Permian Basin to the rugged individuals who tamed the Llano Estacado, or “staked plains,” the unique and colorful spirit of the timeless land of southern New Mexico can be explored fully at the Western Heritage Museum & Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame in Hobbs.

The museum's exhibits strikingly depict the vast region's fascinating background. As the largest non-mountainous land formation in North America, the Llano Estacado covers an area larger than the combined states of Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Throughout the centuries, this expansive area was comprised of rich grasslands that supported life for millions of buffalo, as well as a number of Native American peoples.

Long known as “The Great American Desert, ” the Llano Estacado was avoided by Europeans for centuries. It wasn't until the 1880s that bison hunters discovered the La Pista de Vida Agua, or Trail of Living Waters, which ran across northern Lea County. From that point on, the area underwent extensive exploration by the legendary Buffalo Soldiers and others.

Such efforts of early explorers convinced some that there was enough water to sustain livestock—if one was lucky enough to gain control of the few springs and lakes in the region. However, with the advent of the windmill, which pumped life-giving water from far below the surface, life on the Llano Estacado was changed forever. Now, enterprising homesteaders, cowboys, and ranchers were able to move onto the seemingly inhospitable rangelands to begin staking a future for themselves and their families.

As these hearty pioneers slowly began to tame the region, one last secret was discovered deep within the bosom of the Llano Estacado: oil! And with this discovery, the face of the Llano Estacado was to be transformed yet again. . .

Come discover for yourself the compelling history, the rugged men and women, and the rich traditions beautifully showcased in the Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame in Hobbs!

Background: At approximately 29,000 square feet, the Western Heritage Museum & Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame was completed late fall 2005 and opened January 14, 2006. In addition to offering world-class exhibits throughout the year that exemplify the diversity, beauty, and rich cultural traditions that have shaped the American Southwest, the Museum also serves as home to the renowned Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame, which boasts more world champion cowboys than any other region in the world!

The Museum is located on the Lovington Highway (State Highway 18) between New Mexico Junior College and Lea Regional Hospital (and just past Zia Park Racetrack & Casino!). Come check out all the exciting new happenings around Hobbs!

Regular hours of operation: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday.

Adults - $3
Seniors (65+) - $2
Youth (6-18) - $2
Children 5 and under - Free

School groups from Lea County will be admitted free of charge.
School groups from outside the County will pay $1 admission fee.

Discounts will be offered to military, American Automotive Association (AAA), and groups of 10 or more.


For additional information contact:

Darrell Beauchamp – Exec. Dir. Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Fame
New Mexico Junior College
1 Thunderbird Circle
Hobbs, NM 88240