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Hydrogeology of Central Jornada Del Muerto: Implications for Travel along El Camino Real De Tierra Adentro, Sierra and Doña Ana Counties, New Mexico

Between 1598 and the 1880s, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (El Camino Real) served as a 1,600 mile long trade route between Mexico City and San Juan Pueblo/Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico (north of Santa Fe). El Camino Real transects the Jornada del Muerto, located in southern New Mexico (see below figure). This stretch of the trail is thought to have been one of the most feared sections along El Camino Real due, primarily, to the scarcity of water.

The study area is located primarily in the central portion of the Jornada del Muerto Basin, extending from just North of Engle to just south of Point of Rocks and spanning the entire basin from the Caballo Mountains in the west to the San Andres Mountains to the east.

We characterized the local geology and hydrogeology of the central Jornada del Muerto with a purpose of identifying features that likely influenced the location of El Camino Real de Tierro Adentro. This study aimed to assess the relationship between the location of the trail and parajes (campsites) and water sources that would be available to travelers on the trail. The study was funded by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) and is the fulfillment of one of the measures specified in a mitigation plan that identifies a series of measures specifically intended to mitigate adverse effects to El Camino Real.

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