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Time traveling the Tularosa Basin

Space may be the final frontier when it comes to Alamogordo and its renowned New Mexico Museum of Space History.

The endless grains of gleaming white gypsum at White Sands may attract visitors from across the region, but there are many other area attractions, as well.

For instance, the Tularosa Basin Museum of History is a jampacked testament to life in the area, from prehistoric days through the modern era, curator Jean Killer said.

“One of the things we’re particularly proud of is we have a very nice exhibit of Albert Fall,” she said. “He was our first U.S. senator, and he was very active in the region.”

One of New Mexico’s more colorful and controversial politicians, Fall first made his name as an attorney who earned an acquittal of the defendants accused of killing Albert Fountain and his young son, as well as successfully defending Jesse Wayne Brazel, who was accused of killing sheriff Pat Garrett. Fall also was secretary of the interior and was one of the central figures in the infamous Teapot Dome scandal, serving a year for accepting a bribe.

The Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, which overlooks the Tularosa Basin, contains more than 21,000 depictions, including this snake. (SOURCE: The Bureau Of Land Management)

The museum also includes a tribute to Katherine Ortega, the 10th consecutive woman and second Hispanic to hold the office of U.S. treasurer, Killer said.

With a long military heritage, “We have a room dedicated to the military history in the area with Holloman Air Force Base, the testing at the missile range and the things that go on over there,” she said.

Trains also form a large backdrop to the area, particularly with its large cattle history, so the iron horse is well-represented, she said.

An F-117 is part of the Tularosa Basin Museum of History’s tribute to the military. (SOURCE: The Tularosa Basin Museum Of History)

“It made the Tularosa Valley accessible to the world,” Killer said. “We have an extensive collection of items and a depiction of all the railroad stops in the basin, all these stops that loaded cattle and water but are no longer existing. There are no train stops between El Paso and Carrizozo now, which is quite a change from what it was. We have a little story board where you press the button and it will talk to you.”

A tour of La Luz Pottery Factory – now owned by the Tularosa Basin Historical Society – north of townm is an interesting side trip because of not only the work that was done there, but also for its founder, Rowland Hazard III, a mercurial businessman who was noted for his connection with Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson.

An excavation of a number of Atari video games from a nearby landfill made national headlines in 2014.

The surrounding soil provided the clay material for the factory, which was built in 1930 and became famous for its clay roofing tiles that are still common across the Southwest.

New Mexico State University Alamogordo professor Peter L. Eidenbach conducts twice-monthly tours – starting again in November – of the grounds.

The area has been home to artists for quite some time, as can be seen in the nearby Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.

This remarkable site has more than 21,000 petroglyphs spread across some 50 acres of Bureau of Land Management grounds that has been recognized by the New Mexico Historic Preservation Office, said Deborah Stevens, BLM spokeswoman.

The La Luz Pottery Factory sits at the mouth of a canyon in the Sacramento Mountains near Alamogordo. (SOURCE: The New Mexico Historic Preservation Program)

Created by Jornada Mogollon natives from about A.D. 900 to 1400, the collection is one of the largest and most varied in the Southwest, she said.

Birds, humans, animals, fish, insects, masks, sunbursts and plants, as well as numerous geometric and abstract designs, are among the many examples of rock on the site, Stevens said.

A rugged half-mile trail, with some interpretive signs, curls through the site to give access to many of the most interesting pictures. Also nearby, the foundational remains of the Native village from which the artists mostly originated, are still visible.

“A key message to get across is no touching, just taking photographs of the petroglyphs,” Stevens said. “The oils from hands help break down and add acid to the material. So no fingerprints. Enjoy looking at them and taking photographs.”