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The Mesalands Community College's Dinosaur Museum, 222 E. Laughlin (tel. 575/461-3466; www.mesalands.edu/museum/museum.htm), half a block east off 1st Street, is home to the largest collection of life-size bronze prehistoric skeletons in the world. It's open from March 1 to Labor Day, Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 6pm (noon-5pm the rest of the year). Admission is $6 for adults, $3.50 for children 5 to 11, free for children 4 and under, and $5 for seniors 65 and older.

A fun small-town stop is Tucumcari Historical Museum, 416 S. Adams (tel. 575/461-4201), 1 block east of 1st Street. Renovated in 1999, the museum showcases Route 66 and other regional memorabilia. It's open from 8am to 5pm Monday through Saturday in summer and from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday in winter. Admission is $2.50 for adults and 75¢ for children 6 to 15; it's free for kids under age 5. The moonlike Mesa Redondo, a round mesa rising 11 miles south of town via NM 209, was once train robber "Black Jack" Ketchum's hideout -- he was eventually captured and executed in Clayton in 1901.

To the northwest, 34 miles distant from Tucumcari over NM 104, is Conchas Lake State Park (tel. 575/868-2270), with a reservoir 25 miles long. Though the water is a beautiful aqua, it sits within a desert environment, with lots of sand and little shade. A marina on the northern side provides facilities for boating, fishing, and water-skiing, while nearby you'll find a store, cafe, RV park with hookups, and trailers available to rent. If you'd like to spend a few days here, contact the Adobe Belle, P.O. Box 131, Conchas Dam, NM 88416 (tel. 575/868-3351; www.geocities.com/adobebelle), an inn just above the lake's shore that offers adobe cabins. The decor is a little dated, but the cabins provide plenty of space.

Ute Lake State Park (tel. 575/487-2284) is 22 miles northeast of Tucumcari on US 54, near the town of Logan. It has a full-service marina, docking facilities, picnic tables, campsites, and rental boats.

Quay County around Tucumcari is noted for its blue-quail hunting, said to be the best anywhere in the United States.

Santa Rosa calls itself "the city of natural lakes." Those bodies of water include Blue Hole, Blue Hole Road (turn south off Rte. 66 onto Lake Dr. then left onto Blue Hole Rd.; tel. 575/472-3763), a crystal-clear, 81-foot-deep artesian well just east of downtown. Fed by a subterranean river that flows 3,000 gallons per minute at a constant 61°F (16°C), it's a favorite of scuba divers and is deep enough to merit open-water certification. Divers must either be certified or be with a certified instructor. Equipment can be rented at the nearby Santa Rosa Dive Center (tel. 575/472-3370), open on weekends only. Swimming and snorkeling are also fun here, with a bathhouse on-site. This is a great place to cool off on a hot summer day. Park Lake (tel. 575/472-3763), in the middle of town, serves as the town's municipal pool. It's a natural lake so the water is fresh, and visitors can rent paddleboats and canoes. The kids can swim with the geese while you cool off under the elm trees. The lake offers free swimming, picnicking, and fishing, as well as a softball field and playground. Santa Rosa Lake State Park, P.O. Box 384, Santa Rosa, NM 88435 (tel. 575/472-3110), on a dammed portion of the Pecos River, has camping, hiking, boating, and excellent fishing. Ten miles south of town via NM 91, the village of Puerto de Luna is a 19th-century county seat with a mid-1800s courthouse and church, Nuestra Señora del Refugio. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was believed to have camped here as he traveled en route to Kansas. For insight into village life here, read Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima, a tale of growing up on the llano (plains) of the area.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.