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Chama New Mexico is best described with one word – enchanting. This historical Old West village is located at the base of the 10,015-foot Cumbres Pass in the San Juan Mountains of northern New Mexico, and is bordered by three wilderness areas; the Rio Grande, Carson and Santa Fe National Forests. To the north lies the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains, to the east, the San Juan Mountains; to the west are the open range and the Continental Divide. And to the south are the irrigated meadows of the Chama River and Heron Lake. The town was founded in the mid-1800s when gold and silver was discovered in the surrounding hills and rivers, and the lovely grazing lands attracted ranchers. The people who settled this area fell in love with the spectacular beauty of the Chama Valley – the virgin forests, lush pastures and many lakes and streams. Economic growth in town really skyrocketed when the narrow-gauge railroad arrived in 1881, and Chama became a mining, logging and transportation hub for a lot of the New Mexico Territory. The prospectors eventually departed but the ranchers stayed. Lumbering, ranching, and tourism are the main sources of income in the town today.

Chama today has a population of 1250 residents, some which have roots that go back to the “Wild, Wild West” before New Mexico became a state. The multi-cultural history is evident in the historic architecture of the town, and the unique shopping and restaurants available in the area. The surrounding Chama Valley has an altitude of 7800 feet and enjoys a four-season climate, with the average temperature in July being 68 degrees. Although the average snowfall in the valley is 103 inches, this region enjoys 300 days of sunshine per year. The Chama Valley is a land of surprises and contrasts. Chama Peak’s granite point reaches over 12,000 feet into the sky, and the sister peaks of the San Juan Mountains become the backdrop for the town. To the north and east deep canyons cut through the mountains and to the west are scenic sandstone cliffs. The open countryside is unspoiled, offering pine and spruce forests, clean air, crystal clear rivers and streams, abundant wildlife and endless night skies filled with stars. All of this combines to make Chama a dream destination for outdoor recreation, such as hiking, fishing, rafting and kayaking, or a place to just get away from it all and enjoy the natural beauty of the land. Many people come to Chama to ride the historic Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, an authentic old steam engine that chugs its way along the narrow gauge line, climbing the Cumbres Pass and giving passengers an awe-inspiring scenic ride along the highest train line in North America. Others enjoy the local shops, chuck wagon dinners and cowboy poetry readings, historic walking tours or panning for gold. The town of Chama makes a unique vacation and recaptures the “Spirit of the West.” Chama is easily accessible via several major highways and is just a short drive to Taos and Santa Fe.


 

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