85 Fun & Interesting Facts About New Mexico, USA

New Mexico is known for its diverse landscapes, ancient Puebloan ruins, and as the birthplace of the atomic bomb.

In the below list of fascinating and fun facts about New Mexico, you’ll learn many other things that the “Land of Enchantment” is famous for!

General New Mexico Facts

  • New Mexico is also sometimes considered one of the Mountain States, with the southern end of the Rocky Mountains dipping into the state.
  • The Four Corners Monument is at the northwestern corner of New Mexico, where the state meets Arizona, Colorado and Utah.
  • New Mexico shares a small border with Oklahoma to the east, Texas to the east and south, the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua to the south, and Arizona to the west.
  • The state has a total area of 121,591 mi² (314,918 km²), making it 5th largest state, sitting between Montana and Arizona in terms of size.
  • New Mexico is larger than the countries Poland, the Philippines, and Oman.
  • With a population of 2.1 million people, New Mexico is the 36th most populous state, putting it between Kansas and Nebraska in terms of population.
Brown rooftops in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico
  • Due to its fairly large size and relatively low population, New Mexico is the 6th least densely populated state, with about 17.5 people per mi2 (6.7 per km2).
  • Santa Fe is the capital city of New Mexico. With a population of 86,000, it is not even on the list of the 350 largest cities in the US.
  • Founded as the capital of Nuevo México in the Spanish empire in 1610, it is the oldest state capital in the US.
  • One-third of New Mexico’s population speaks Spanish at home.
View of downtown Albuquerque
Albuquerque is the state’s largest city.
  • The name Nuevo México (New Mexico) was first used by Spanish explorers who were looking for gold in the far north of New Spain in the 1650s. They considered the area a “new” Mexico.
  • The abbreviation for New Mexico is NM.
  • Residents of New Mexico are called New Mexicans. Hispanic residents are sometimes called Neomexicanos or Nuevomexicanos.
  • New Mexico’s state motto is “crescit eundo“, which is Latin for “It grows as it goes”, while the official state slogan in “The Land of Enchantment.”
  • New Mexico has also been called the Tyrannosaur State, as several T-Rexes have been found there. The official state fossil is the Coelophysis, though.
Strings of red chile peppers, called ristras, hanging from a roof in New Mexico
Chile ristras are seen hanging all over New Mexico
  • New Mexico chiles and frijoles pintos (pinto beans) are the state vegetables of New Mexico.
  • Turquoise has been found up and down the state of New Mexico, so it’s no surprise that the state gem is Turquoise. Arizona and Nevada also have turquoise as their state gem.
  • Known for having a speed of 18 mph (29 km/hr), the Great Roadrunner, otherwise known as the Chaparral Bird, is the state bird of New Mexico.
  • There are around 6000 black bears in New Mexico, and it is the official state mammal.
The flag of New Mexico
The New Mexico state flag
  • New Mexico even has an official state cookie, the Biscochito.
  • The state flag of New Mexico features the colors red and yellow, which are the colors of old Spain. The center design is the ancient Zia sun symbol in red, on a plain yellow backdrop, representing New Mexico’s unique character.

Random Interesting Facts About New Mexico

  • Santa Fe is the highest capital city out of all 50 states, at 7199 feet (2194 meters) above sea level.
  • The Chihuahua Desert, the largest in North America, extends into southern New Mexico, while the Rio Grande, 4th largest in the US, traverses the state.
A deep canyon at Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico
Rio Grande Gorge
  • Although often considered a desert state, New Mexico has one of the most diverse landscapes in the US, including forests of cottonwood, snow-capped peaks with spruce and pines, wildflower fields, vast expanses of prairie, and white sand dunes.
  • Carlsbad Caverns in the Guadalupe Mountains features over 100 caves. Lechuguilla Cave is 150 mi (242 km) in length, 8th longest in the world. The caves are home to hundreds of thousands of bats.
Inside a cave at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Carlsbad Caverns
  • White Sands protects the world’s largest field of gypsum crystal sand dunes. The parks is sometimes closed when testing is being done in the adjacent missile testing range.
  • New Mexico is home to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites (3) than any of the other state: Carlsbad Caverns, Taos Pueblo, and Chaco Culture. The latter two protect ancient centers of the Puebloans and Ancestral Puebloans.
  • New Mexico has 84 national monuments, more than any state except Arizona. They protect ancient ruins, cave dwellings, volcanoes, rock formations, petroglyphs, and more.
  • Gila Wilderness in New Mexico was the world’s first official wilderness area.
A whole bunch of hot air balloons in the sky above the Rio Grande river in New Mexico
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
  • New Mexico has its very own Las Vegas, but you won’t find any casinos there. In fact, the city was the largest in New Mexico in 1900. It was frequented by Old West legends like Doc Holliday and Pat Garrett.
  • Animals native to New Mexico include the kangaroo rat, coyotes, porcupines, foxes, rodents, rabbits, bobcats, and badgers. At higher elevations, animals such as mountain lions, bobcats, minks, foxes, black bears, muskrats, mule deer, and bighorn sheep are found.
  • New Mexico is prone to floods, tornadoes, and thunderstorms in summer and spring. In winter, there can be snowstorms in New Mexico.
  • The all-time highest temperature in New Mexico was 122°F (50°C) in Loving on June 27, 1994, while the lowest was -50°F (-45.6°C) in Gavilan on February 1 1951.
A road runner bird on the ground in New Mexico
Road runners are the official state bird
  • The highest point in New Mexico is Wheeler Peak at 13,167 ft (4013 m). The lowest is Red Bluff Reservoir at 2,842 feet (866.24 meters).
  • Major industries in New Mexico include military, oil, gas, and tourism.
  • In terms of agriculture, New Mexico grows onions, potatoes, beans, corn, lettuce, cabbage, pumpkins, and watermelons.
  • New Mexico remains the largest producer of chile peppers in the US, and it is the state’s most famous export.
  • 85% of the nation’s fresh onions are supplied by New Mexico during June.
A sign that says "Wine tasting" outside a winery in New Mexico
A wine tasting room at a winery in New Mexico
  • The first wine grapes ever planted in the US were along the Rio Grande in New Mexico. Today, the state has nearly 50 wineries dotting its landscape.
  • New Mexico is home to more PhD holders per capita than any of the other state in the US.
  • Microsoft was founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1975, and stayed there until Bill Gates and Paul Allen moved it to Bellevue, Washington in 1979.
  • The atomic bomb was invented at Los Alamos National Laboratory near Santa Fe as a part of the Manhattan Project. It took 20 months of work to construct the atomic bomb. Today, the site is a National Historic Park.
Pond at the Manhattan Project National Historic Park in Los Alamos
Pond at the Manhattan Project National Historic Park in Los Alamos
  • New Mexico is the 3rd US state, after California and Florida, to launch humans into space.
  • Frank Etscorn, a retired behavioral psychologist from New Mexico Tech, invented nicotine patches. In fact, his invention was created by accident. Frank accidently spilled liquid nicotine on his arm and realized that it could be delivered via the skin after the liquid made him feel nauseous.
  • Famous New Mexicans singer John Denver, actress Demi Moore, actor Neil Patrick Harris, non-binary singer and actor Demi Lovato, astronaut Sid Gutierrez, and auto racers AI and Bobby Unser.
  • Famed outlaw William Bonney (Billy the Kid) fought several battles and died in New Mexico.
  • Breaking Bad, the wildly popular and critically acclaimed TV series, was filmed mainly in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Many people now tour various filming locations in town.
A desert vista in New Mexico
New Mexico’s desert provided the setting for many scenes in Breaking Bad
  • Parts of the films Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Brokeback Mountain, Lolita, and Young Guns were also filmed in New Mexico, among many others.
  • The green chile cheeseburger originated in New Mexico around the time when the famous Route 66 was opened, traversing the US from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. There are various origin stories for the burger.
  • Every year, New Mexico records around 1000 official reports of UFOs.
  • An old New Mexican law states that it’s illegal to wear a sombrero while dancing.
  • There’s also a weird law stating that it’s illegal to appear in public unshaven if you’re a woman.
A sign for Roswell, New Mexico, with a UFO figure on top
Roswell is famous for having one of the most famous supposed UFO sightings ever.
  • Legislative law also prohibits betting on camel and ostrich races. However, betting on bike and horse races is legal.
  • It’s considered a petty misdemeanor if you spit on any public sidewalk or property building.
  • Tripping a horse is also a misdemeanor. In fact, if the horse is hurt it becomes a 4th degree felony.

Historical Facts About New Mexico

  • Most of the New Mexico’s landscape has been shaped by volcanic activity. In the last 5 million years there have been over 700 eruptions in the region of New Mexico.
  • The earliest Clovis culture archaeological site in New Mexico, Blackwater Draw, was occupied as early as 12,500 years ago.
A road leading to Capulan Volcano in New Mexico
Capulan Volcano, an extinct cinder volcano
  • Around 2,500 years ago, the Mogollon people began cultivating beans, squash and corn in the area.
  • These people built the first pueblos in the area, which grew larger over time. From 800 to 1250 AD, Chaco Canyon was home to thousands of people.
  • From around 1300 to 1500 CE, the Apache people moved from Alaska south to the area.
  • In 1540, Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado arrived in the region of New Mexico and claimed the land for Spain.
  • In 1563, explorers entered the area looking for gold, calling it a “New Mexico”.
  • In 1598, the first European settlement was built along the Rio Grande.
An old adobe house that is considered the oldest in Santa Fe
The oldest house in Santa Fe, De Vargas Street House
  • In 1610, Santa Fe was founded as the capital of Nuevo México, a part of new Spain. It has been a Tanoan settlement for hundreds of years before that. That same year, the Pueblo people revolted against the Spanish.
  • Albuquerque was established as a city in 1706.
  • Padre Antonio Jose Martinez of Taos printed the first school text in New Mexico in 1793.
  • After Mexico declared its independence from Spain, New Mexico became a part of Mexico in 1821.
A black and white drawing of Billy the Kid shooting a bartender
Billy the Kid in New Mexico
  • After the Mexican American war ended in 1848, the US gained control of New Mexico. They established the New Mexico Territory in 1850.
  • From 1864 to 1866, the Navajo were forced to relocate and walk from Arizona to new Mexico, called the Long Walk, resulting in trauma that would last for generations.
  • In 1881, Billy the Kid was shot and killed in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
  • New Mexico became the nation’s 47th state in 1912.
  • In the 1920s, major oil deposits were discovered in the state, bringing wealth.
  • In 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated in New Mexico at Trinity Site, now part of White Sands Missile Range.
A dusty view looking down on the White Sands Missile Range
The White Sands Missile Range overlook
  • In 1947, balloon debris landed on a ranch near Roswell, New Mexico, resulting in decades of conspiracy and UFO theories. It is known as the Roswell Incident.
  • New Mexico celebrated its cuartocetenario, or 400th anniversary, of the first Spanish settlement in 1998.
  • In 2010, New Mexico’s population surpasses 2 million.
  • New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009, becoming the 15th state to do so.
  • In 2019, White Sands National Park was created (before that, it was only a National Monument).
Aerial view of a circular runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico
Spaceport America
  • In 2021, actor Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed a cinematographer on set while shooting a film in New Mexico.
  • In 2021, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson traveled to space from Spaceport America in New Mexico, the first time a space company founder has rode to space on his own ship.