Watrous (La Junta)

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Watrous new Mexico United State
Watrous , New Mexico

Watrous, also named La Junta, is a historic district in New Mexico.

The National Park Service's Statement of Significance for the site (as of designation in 1963) was:

Here, at the settlement of La Junta de los Rios Mara y Sapello, the Mountain and Cimarron Cutoff routes of the Santa Fe Trail joined. Wagon trains organized here before entering hostile Indian territory. In 1879, the Santa Fe Railroad laid out the present town of Watrous to the east.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1963.

The valley where the tiny town of Watrous stands today, has long been a resting and meeting place, beginning with the indigenous tribes of the area. Located in a valley where the Sapello and Mora Rivers meet, the Plains Tribes, including the Comanche, Kiowa, Apache and Ute, often met to trade with the Puebloans. The site, known as La Junta de los Rios Mora y Sapello, meaning The Juncture of the Mora and Sapello Rivers, was a perfect gathering place as it was filled with cottonwoods, good grass, and water from the rivers. It later became a meeting place for sheep herders from Las Vegas, Mora, and other places in the regions. It was a camp site for Comancheros, Native Americans, and Spanish/Mexican settlers.


Watrous Valley Ranch, located in Mora and San Miguel Counties, New Mexico, is comprised of the original Watrous House, an adobe compound built by Samuel Watrous circa 1841 to be his home and store, and the parts of the old original New Mexico land grant given to Samuel Watrous and partners. Watrous Valley Ranch currently encompasses the restored Watrous House, 5.0 miles of Mora River frontage and 40,000 acres of land that has sustained cattle and horses in the valley since the Santa Fe Trail began in the 1830’s. In 2002, the current owners assembled the old Watrous holdings and combined those with the Phillips Ranch (link to target about Phillips Ranch below) located further down the Mora River to form what is known today as Watrous Valley Ranch.

When the Watrous House was built, materials such as lumber, windows, doors and other materials were not easily obtainable so they were hauled in by wagon over the Santa Fe Trail. Watrous House was one of the first houses built on the Santa Fe Trail during a time when the land was still a province of Mexico.

During the 19th century, commerce between the United States and Mexico to the west boomed via the Santa Fe Trail. The Watrous (La Junta) National Historic Landmark at the meeting point of the Mora and Sapello Rivers in the La Junta Valley of New Mexico tells the story of the development of the valley during the Santa Fe Trail period.

After the Santa Fe Trail opened to trade in 1821, many small towns and trading posts began to spring up along its route. The settlement of La Junta de los Rios Mora y Sapello (The Juncture of the Mora and Sapello Rivers) was one of the most prosperous of these small traders’ villages. Established c. 1835 and commonly known as La Junta, the town sits at the point where the Mountain and Cimarron Cutoff routes of the Santa Fe Trail joined.

What began as a small farming community soon became an important rest stop for travelers headed east into the arid plains, or west toward the trail’s end in downtown Santa Fe. The sheltered and fertile valley supported the eventual development of several prosperous ranches, stagecoach stations, a Jesuit Mission and additional support structures for nearby Fort Union. The area was not only a bustling center of trade, but also a crucible of cultural interaction between American Indian, Mexican, and American travelers.

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