A great day hiking The Dripping Springs Natural Area

The recreational area was recently established in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. It’s located east of Las Cruces, New Mexico in the western foothills of the Organ Mountains. It was a beautiful hiking area plus there are historical structures which made it an even greater experience.

We hiked from the Visitor Center to #9 Boyd’s Sanatorium and back.

The Dripping Springs Trail that we took was a 3.5 -mile, moderately-rated hiking trail that took us to a waterfall and ruins of an abandoned mountain camp.

Van Patten, who was from upstate New York, led an exciting life. By the time he opened his mountain resort here, he had been a stagecoach driver, a stationmaster, a county sheriff, a US Marshall, founded several businesses and fought in the Civil War. He was married to a high-ranking Piro Indian woman named Benita Madrid Vargas. He built Van Patten’s Mountain Camp/Resort up here in 1895 and it was finished in 1897.

The first buildings you come to are from The Livery.

Built in the late 1800’s, these buildings acted as the hub for the servicing of the hotel a little further up. This is where the wagons unloaded supplies, horses were watered, the chicken coop was kept, and even a vegetable garden grew food for the guests. The stagecoach delivering guests would drop them at the resort’s front door and then head back down to this location. At the height of the resort’s popularity the station included a barn for coaches, wagons, horses and a general store.

Next stop Van Patten Camp.

It had 15 guest rooms, a dining hall, a concert hall, a gazebo and a roller-skating rink. The resort, named after its founder and owner Eugene Van Patten, offered guests a refreshing break from the stifling heat of Las Cruces in the desert below. It was all very glamorous and incredibly beautiful and by 1900 Van Patten’s Mountain Camp was the talk of the Southwest. It attracted notables such as Pancho Villa and Sherriff Pat Garrett, known for killing Billy the Kid. Rumor has it that Billy the Kid, who was indeed active in and around Las Cruces, was also a guest. Obviously not at the same time.

Because of Benita’s family (his wife) and community connections, the resort was staffed by young Piro men and boys. They worked at the hotel and the livery area and helped maintain the roads. The younger boys carried cool water from the rock springs to the guest rooms. Sometimes Piro men captivated resort guests by putting on dance performances in the roller-skating rink.

The resort lost its charm and fell on hard times during the First World War. By 1917 it was all over. Van Patten went bankrupt and sold the property to Dr. Nathan Boyd, a San Francisco physician who renamed it the Dripping Springs Resort.

The resort lost its charm and fell on hard times during the First World War. By 1917 it was all over. Van Patten went bankrupt and sold the property to Dr. Nathan Boyd, a San Francisco physician who renamed it the Dripping Springs Resort.

The next stop was Dripping Springs

The next stop along the trail is where the the rock springs lies just beyond the resort. Water emerges several places in the cliff face, in some spots as small waterfalls. The amount of water coming out of the mountainside depends on the season. As you can see not a lot of water is coming out at all, but it was still a nice place to take pictures and walk around.

Next stop Boyd’s Sanitarium, he is the one who bought the property from Van Patten

During the 1800s, for reasons that are still unclear, people began to link tuberculosis to the climate. It was felt that the humid atmosphere in big cities along the coasts was making people who already had consumption sicker as well as causing the disease to spread more rapidly. Doctors recommended that patients move to the high mountain deserts of the Southwest for the thin, dry air. Thousands upon thousands of them, along with their doctors and nurses, migrated to New Mexico.

Dr. Boyd constructed the sanatorium in 1910. He built if for his wife who tuberculosis and for a brief time, it housed other tuberculosis patients until Dr. Boyd, too, experienced financial difficulties.

The hospital would begin to fail during the 1920s, when high dry air and tranquility began to give way to new vaccines and treatments as a more effective means for dealing with the disease. Boyd, with other failing business ventures and mounting legal expenses, sold his Dripping Springs property to a Las Cruces physician, Dr. Troy C. Sexton in 1922.

The sanatorium would shut down within a few years. Eventually, rancher A. B. Cox would acquire the Dripping Springs land, using the water for his livestock. Scavengers, weather and time have taken a toll on the structures. Today, the Cox ranch house serves as the visitor center.

It was a great hike seeing all the plants, animals and ruins and thinking back to what it was like when The Van Camp was up and running. And thinking about having to roller skate with a dress on.

2 thoughts on “A great day hiking The Dripping Springs Natural Area

  1. What an interesting place. I bet it was something to see back in the day. Roller skating ……interesting activity choice. You guys are going to need new hiking boots soon.

  2. Sandy

    Stunning photos of this pretty area. Great find! Dry air being healthier is a great reason to gravitate to the desert SW. Plus, it’s better weather for those pickleball games these days. Wonder if that would have been done in a dress too. ??

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