Catron County is located in the southwestern corner of New Mexico, bordering Arizona and Utah. See Countryaah – Counties in New Mexico. It is the third largest county in the state and covers an area of 5,936 square miles. The county is named after Thomas B. Catron, a prominent lawyer who was instrumental in securing New Mexico’s statehood in 1912.
Catron County is home to two mountain ranges, the San Mateo Mountains and the Datil Mountains, as well as two major rivers—the Gila River and San Francisco River—and several smaller streams. The county also includes parts of three national forests—Gila National Forest, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and Cibola National Forest—which offer a variety of recreational activities including fishing, camping, hunting, hiking, and horseback riding.
The county seat is Reserve which lies just north of the Gila Wilderness area. Other larger towns include Glenwood and Quemado which are located along State Highway 12 near Arizona’s border. The county also includes several small communities such as Pie Town which lies on State Highway 60 near Datil National Wildlife Refuge.
Catron County borders four other counties in New Mexico: Grant County to the northeast; Socorro County to the east; Cibola County to the southeast; Hidalgo County to the south; and Luna County to the west. It also borders Apache County in Arizona to the southwest and San Juan County in Utah to the northwest.
Demographics of Catron County, New Mexico
Catron County, New Mexico is home to an estimated 3,537 residents according to the 2020 United States Census. The population is primarily made up of White Americans (88.2%) and Hispanic or Latino Americans (9.3%). Other races include Native American (1.2%), African American (0.5%), and Asian American (0.4%).
The median age in Catron County is 48 years old, with 21% of the population under 18 and 10% over 65. In terms of education, 8% of the population has less than a high school diploma, 39% have a high school diploma or equivalent, and 17% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The median household income in Catron County is $38,465 and the median family income is $46,477 per year. The poverty rate in Catron County is fairly high at 24%. The unemployment rate stands at 8%, which is slightly higher than the national average of 6%.
The largest industries by employment are agriculture (19%), construction (17%), health care & social assistance (13%), retail trade (12%), manufacturing (10%), and accommodation & food services (8%). The largest employers in Catron County are Gila Regional Medical Center, Apache Corporation, Western Refining Company LLC., Quemado Lake State Park Inc., and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.
Places of Interest in Catron County, New Mexico
Catron County, New Mexico offers visitors a variety of attractions and activities. The county is home to two national forests, the Gila National Forest and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. These forests offer camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, and a variety of other outdoor activities.
The Catwalk National Recreation Trail is located in the Gila National Forest and is one of the most popular attractions in Catron County. This scenic trail follows an old flume through a narrow canyon for about 2 miles and offers stunning views of the surrounding area.
Other outdoor attractions include Pie Town Mountain Park, which offers hiking trails and picnic areas; Datil Well Campground; Quemado Lake State Park; Bluewater Lake State Park; and Glenwood Wildlife Area.
Catron County also has several historical sites including Fort West which was built in 1876 to protect settlers from Apache raids; Gila Cliff Dwellings which are ancient dwellings built by ancestors of the modern Pueblo people; Fort Bayard which was an army post from 1866 to 1899; and San Francisco Plaza which was established in 1872 as a trading post for local Native Americans.
The county is also home to numerous cultural events such as the annual Pie Town Festival which celebrates the town’s unique history with music, food, artisans, games, and more. Other popular events include Cibola County Fair in Grants every August, Silver City Blues Festival every June, and Quemado Arts & Crafts Fair every October.
Notable People of Catron County, New Mexico
Catron County, New Mexico is home to a number of notable people. Among them are Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, who is a member of the House of Representatives; former Senator Jeff Bingaman, who served as a US Senator from 1983 to 2013; and US Representative Martin Heinrich, who was elected in 2012.
The county is also home to several prominent writers including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy, whose novel All the Pretty Horses was set in Catron County; novelist and poet N. Scott Momaday; and poet John Nichols.
Other notable people from Catron County include actor/director/producer Robert Redford, who directed the movie The Milagro Beanfield War which was based on a story set in Catron County; actor/director/producer Edward James Olmos, who starred in Stand and Deliver which was filmed in Catron County; actor/producer Val Kilmer, who starred in Tombstone which was partially filmed in Catron County; and actress Mary McCormack, who starred in In Plain Sight which was also filmed in Catron County.
Finally, Catron County is home to several prominent Native American leaders including Apache Chief Victorio and Navajo Chief Manuelito. Both men fought for the rights of their respective tribes during the 19th century against encroaching settlers.