Welcome to Las Cruces and the Mesilla Valley! It is truly the “Crossroads” of the Southwest, both today and for the past 400 years. In May 1598 Don Juan de Oñate passed through the Mesilla Valley in search of the fabled seven cities of gold. His early exploration opened the way from Mexico City to Santa Fe where for the next 245 years tradesmen and travelers journeyed along the Camino Real, the “Royal Road.”
A settlement was established in nearby Doña Ana in 1843, and when it became overcrowded, the mayor asked Lt. Delos Bennett Sackett, the Commander of local U.S. forces, to lay out a town at a designated site a few miles to the south. Lt. Sackett proceeded with orders and used rawhide ropes and stakes to conceptualize what would become residential lots, a plaza and a church in a town known as Las Cruces. You can still visit the original town site in what is now called the Mesquite Historic District.
During its colorful history, Las Cruces Sheriff Pat Garrett caught and tried the region’s notorious outlaw, Billy the Kid. Apache tribes of Geronimo and Mangas Coloradas also occupied the nearby Gila Wilderness. In 1865, to protect the local settlers from the Apaches, the U.S. government established Fort Selden, located 12 miles north along Interstate 25. Fort Selden was home to the U.S. Horse Cavalry and the Buffalo Soldier. In the 1880s, young Douglas MacArthur lived at the Fort.
The most common story of how Las Cruces got its name is from a “garden of crosses” (Jardin de Las Cruces) created from victims of raids by area Apaches that travelers on the Camino Real passed by on their journey north. The Gadsden Purchase in 1854, which made the nearby Village of Mesilla a part of the United States, and the subsequent arrival of the railroad in 1881, were two significant events in the growth of Las Cruces. By 1900, the population of Las Cruces had nearly doubled. Las Cruces’ original train station borders the historic Alameda residential district, which surrounds beautiful Pioneer Park. Many of the homes in the area have been preserved, and look the same today as they did at the turn of the century.
The territorial legislature approved the formation of a land grant college in 1889 and during the past century it has grown into what is now New Mexico State University, located on the south side of Las Cruces. During World War II, to the east of Las Cruces, White Sands Missile Range was home to secret tests of rockets and the development of the first atomic bomb. Today Las Cruces enjoys a significant amount of military and government research at White Sands and nearby NASA facilities. The northern part of Doña Ana County has recently been chosen as the location for the X Prize competition, a race to achieve the first privately funded space exploration.
For the past decade, Las Cruces has experienced significant growth due to our mild annual climate and ever-sunny days. Agriculture still remains as a significant part of the local economy along with contributions from White Sands and tourism. Las Cruces and the surrounding area are the home of a wide variety of special events for the whole family. Annual festivities include balloon rallies, wine and chile “wars,” fairs and rodeos, mariachi concerts, a Renaissance Craft Faire and the making of the “world’s largest” enchilada. Celebrations reflecting our cultural diversity also occur throughout the year.
Climate in Las Cruces
Mild weather is undoubtedly a factor in Las Cruces’ attraction as a place to conduct business, live and retire. An average of 330 days of sunshine is great for construction and golf alike, with both mountain and river trails just minutes away and winter skiing only two hours away. Rainfall throughout the year is light and half of the precipitation occurs in a 3 month period, July-September. These rains vary from light summer showers to heavy thunderstorms. Snowfall each year is light, often not more than an inch at a time, and usually melts quickly. Winter daytime temperatures are mild, around 60 degrees on the average. Spring and Fall are very comfortable with temperatures averaging in the mid 70’s. Summer temperatures average in the 90’s with an occasional 100+day.
Average Seasonal Temperatures
|High Fº||Low Fº||Precip|
- Annual Rainfall 9.1″
- Annual Snowfall 3.2″
- Prevailing Winds: Westerly
- Average Relative Afternoon Humidity: 27%