Geologic Tour of New Mexico — Physiographic Provinces
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The varied landscape of New Mexico is divided in six distinct physiographic provinces, each with characteristic landforms and a unique geologic history. We invite you to investigate points of geologic interest located in each province.
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The 64-mile stretch of narrow gauge railroad track between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico was originally built in 1880 as part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. This rail line provided much-needed transportation and freight service between Denver and mining camps in Silverton during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. When the Federal Government discontinued the use of the silver and gold standard to back American currency, the "Silver Panic" in 1893 caused the closure of many of the mines in the Silverton area. The railroad continued to operate with revenues from transportation of livestock, timber, and farm produce. The oil and gas industry in the Four Corners region also utilized the railroad. Demand for rail transportation in this region waned by the mid-twentieth century. Passenger service on the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad ended in 1951 and freight service ended in 1968. Railroad enthusiasts and legislative bodies in New Mexico and Colorado recognized the scenic splendor of the train route between Chama and Antonito. Through a joint effort, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, complete with coal-powered steam engines carrying tourists in railcars on refurbished narrow gauge tracks, was created in 1970 to preserve this historic and picturesque section of railroad.