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Visiting Salinas Pueblo Missions Abó Ruins

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Last weekend, the family set out on an exciting road trip across south-central New Mexico. Our first stop was at the Abó Ruins, part of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. We visited the ruins once before a few years ago and have been looking forward to revisiting. Since it was Mother’s day, we decided to pack a picnic and hit the road. I’m sure for many families this would be an odd way to celebrate. For us, it was perfect.

If you are looking at a map the first thing you need to know is that the Salina Pueblo Missions National Monument is split across 3 seperate sites. The Abó Ruins is a few miles west of the small town of Mountainair. The other two sites are larger and worth visiting as well. We picked this one because it was small enough to visit, eat our lunch, then get back on our road trip. It also has the ruins of an incredible 17th century mission and pueblo that are a lot of fun to visit.

Salinas Pueblo Missions Park BoardDrax At Salinas Pueblo Missions
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Salinas Pueblo Missions: Abo, Quarai, and Gran Quivira Learn about the remarkable human story of the Estancia Basin of New Mexico and the tragic drama that unfolded in the seventeenth century, when the expanding empire of Spain reached these peaceful Indian towns. Illustrations by Lawrence Ormsby. Photos by Ormsby, George H. H. Huey, Russ Finley, and Lawrence Parent.

Pictures

I usually leave my phone in the car, but this time I remembered to bring it along. Here are some pictures I took around the ruins. I’m not a professional photographer, but I hope these photos give you a good sense of what it’s like here. One thing the pictures can’t quite capture is the stunning beauty of the surrounding area. We enjoyed the hike just as much for the natural scenery as we did for the ruins.

Salinas Pueblo MissionsSalinas Pueblo MissionsSalinas Pueblo MissionsSalinas Pueblo MissionsSalinas Pueblo MissionsSalinas Pueblo MissionsSalinas Pueblo MissionsSalinas Pueblo MissionsSalinas Pueblo MissionsSalinas Pueblo MissionsFred Sisneros' GraveInfo Board for Fred Sisneros' Grave

Park Info and Attractions

Let’s cover the most important things first. All three sites are totally free to visit, leashed pets are welcome, and the parks are open almost every day from 9am to 5pm. There is a small visitor center at each one. The one at the Abó Ruins has a nice little gift and book store and clean restrooms. The park also has plenty of covered picnic areas so be sure and bring lunch.

The main visitor center for the park is actually in the nearby town of Maintainair. It has a really nice museum and gift shop at the visitor center so it is worth checking out. They will show a short park movie on request but we have always had an impatient teenager with us so we haven’t gotten to watch it yet.

Self-Guided Tour

There is a short (1/2 to 3/4 mile) paved trail that runs in a loop around the site. There are plenty of informative signs as well to help you understand the history. You can see several of them in our pictures, but not all of them. The trail is wide and flat enough for wheelchair access although I wish there were more benches available. The tour took us less than an hour without any rush and could probably be done in about 20 minutes if you’re in a hurry.

Picnic Area

Whenever we come out here we always pack a lunch to enjoy outside and the picnic area here is very nice. The staff do an excellent job of keeping the area clean. If you are planning to stop I highly recommend taking the opportunity to picnic. This is especially true since dining options in the nearby town of Mountainair are pretty limited.

Dark Skies

If you are an amateur stargazer or just want to get an amazing view of the night sky this park is one of 6 International Dark Sky Parks in New Mexico. This means that because of it’s geography and remote location the park has almost no light polution. Visiting on a clear night will give you a chance to see the sky in a way most of us never get to experience. You will need to attend one of their astronomy events or apply for a special use permit though.

Looking for more New Mexico travel destinations?

New Mexico is an amazing state with one of the most diverse landscapes in the world. Our history, culture, and food is unique and must be experienced to truly understand. While we are working on documenting our travels across this great state we want to the following travel guide for anyone who wants to learn even more.

New Mexico: Outdoor Adventures, Road Trips, Local Culture (Travel Guide) From hiking sandstone canyons to chowing down on southwestern cuisine, fall under the spell of the Land of Enchantment with Moon New Mexico

A Short History of the Salinas Pueblo Missions

The Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, including the Abo ruins, is located in central New Mexico and showcases the remnants of interactions between Pueblo cultures and Spanish colonial efforts. The history of the Abo ruins is a fascinating blend of indigenous cultures, Spanish missionary ambitions, and eventual decline.

Pre-Spanish Period

Before the arrival of the Spanish, the region where Abo is located was inhabited by Native American groups who had developed sophisticated communities. These groups were ancestors of modern Pueblo peoples and lived in villages that included multi-storied adobe buildings. They practiced agriculture, cultivating maize, beans, and squash, and had well-developed trade networks.

Spanish Arrival

The Spanish arrived in what is now New Mexico in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Franciscan missionaries were part of the colonial expansion, aiming to convert the indigenous populations to Christianity. Mission San Gregorio de Abó, as it was originally called, was established in the early 17th century, around 1622. It was one of the three missions established in the Salinas region, along with Quarai and Gran Quivira.

Construction and Function of the Mission

The mission complex at Abo was built using local red sandstone, which gives the ruins their distinctive appearance. It included a large church with massive walls and a convento where the missionaries lived. The layout and architecture reflect a blend of indigenous building techniques and Spanish colonial architectural styles.

Decline and Abandonment

The mission and the surrounding indigenous settlements faced several challenges that led to their decline. These included droughts, Apache raids, and diseases brought by Europeans. These pressures severely reduced the population and disrupted the social structures and agricultural base needed to support the community and the mission.

By the late 17th century, around 1670s, the region was effectively abandoned as both the Spanish and the Pueblo people moved to areas with more reliable water sources and greater security from raiders.

Modern Period and Preservation

The ruins of Abo, along with the other Salinas missions, were declared a National Monument in 1909. This helped protect the site and preserve its structures. Today, the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument offers visitors a glimpse into the early interactions between the Native Americans of the region and European colonizers. The ruins stand as a testament to the complex history of cultural conflict and adaptation in the American Southwest.

Visiting the Abo ruins provides an opportunity to learn about the resilience of the indigenous cultures and the impacts of Spanish colonization, offering insights into a pivotal period in New Mexican history.

Clearly that was a very abridged history so if you are wanting to learn more check out the Wikipedia links for Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument and The Abó Pueblo). Atlas Obscura also wrote a pretty good article on the history of the Abo ruins that is worth checking out.

Conclusion

We had an amazing time visiting the Abó Ruins and will be stopping by again. Because of it’s small size, beautiful landscapes, and clean facilities it is a perfect destination for a weekend picnic. If you are ever in the area we strongly recommend stopping in and taking a look around.

Salinas Pueblo MissionsSalinas Pueblo Missions

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