Near here, cowboy George McJunkin discovered the 10,000-year-old remains of "Folsom Man." The find, excavated by the Denver Museum of Natural History in 1926, represented the first association of the artifacts of prehistoric people (spear points) with the fossil bones of extinct animals (a species of bison). The site is on private property and is closed to the public, but some artifacts (prehistoric as well as from the 19th c.) are displayed at the Folsom Museum, Main Street, Folsom (tel. 575/278-2122 in summer, 575/278-3616 in winter; http://folsommuseum.netfirms.com). The museum does not, however, contain any authentic Folsom prints, only copies. The museum has limited exhibits on prehistoric and historic Native Americans of the area, as well as Folsom's settlement by whites. Hours are daily 10am to 5pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day, winter by appointment. The museum is open weekends only in May and September. Admission is $1.50 for adults, 50¢ for children 6 to 12, and free for children under age 6. To get to Folsom, take NM 325 off the Clayton Highway (US 64/87, running 83 miles east-southeast from Raton to Clayton) for 7 miles.
Clayton (pop. 2,100) is a ranching center just 9 miles west of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle borders. Rich prairie grasses, typical of nearby Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands (tel. 575/374-9652), led to its founding in 1887 at the site of a longtime cowboy resting spot and watering hole. In the early 19th century, the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail passed through here. This area was also the site of numerous bloody battles between Plains Indians and Anglo settlers and traders. Clayton is most known as the town where the notorious train robber Thomas "Black Jack" Ketchum was inadvertently decapitated while being hanged in 1901 (a doctor carefully reunited head and body before Ketchum was buried here).
Tracks from eight species of dinosaurs can be clearly seen on the Dinosaur Trackway at Clayton Lake State Park, 12 miles north of town off NM 370, near the distinctive Rabbit Ears Mountains (tel. 575/374-8808; www.claytonlakestatepark.com). The lake is crystalline blue and is strange to come upon after driving across these pale prairies. It offers fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, and camping. A half-mile trail on the southeast side of the lake leads across the dam to an exhibit describing the types of dinosaurs that roamed this area. From there, you can wander along a boardwalk to the amazingly intact dinosaur tracks. In 2006, the park gained an $85,000 observatory, where stargazers can take advantage of the region's especially dark skies to see to the edge of the universe.
Lay your head for the night at the Eklund Hotel Dining Room and Saloon, 15 Main St. (tel. 575/374-2551; www.theeklund.com). Recently remodeled, this hotel offers late-1800s-style rooms updated with contemporary amenities. And if you're hungry and thirsty, head for its restaurant and bar, where you'll dine on New Mexican food, steaks, and seafood in an Old West atmosphere. You can also get a good night's rest at the Best Western Kokopelli Lodge, 702 S. 1st St., Clayton, NM 88415 (tel. 800/528-1234 or 575/374-2589; www.bestwestern.com).
Visitor Information -- For information on other area attractions, as well as more lodging and dining options, contact the Clayton-Union County Chamber of Commerce, 1103 S. 1st St. (P.O. Box 476), Clayton, NM 88415 (tel. 575/374-9253; www.claytonnewmexico.org).