The entrance to Fort Selden State Monument

Fort Selden was established in 1865 primarily to protect American emigrants and pioneers trying to settle in the fertile Mesilla Valley to the south from raids by the local Native Americans and miscellaneous desperados to the north. Most of the troops stationed at Fort Selden were Buffalo Soldiers, although their commanding officers were all white.

The man who became the famous General Douglas MacArthur of World War II fame spent two years here as a young boy when his father assumed command of Fort Selden in 1884. When Geronimo finally surrendered to General Nelson Miles in 1886, the real need for Fort Selden ended. The post was abandoned in 1891 when the US Army decided to expand Fort Bliss and consolidate all their local operations there.

Fort Selden went into private hands and was held privately until Harry N. Bailey donated the property to the State of New Mexico in 1963. By then, the place was pretty run down and had suffered greatly at the hands of treasure hunters, souvenir seekers and assorted vandals. The fort was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and finally became a New Mexico State Monument in 1974.

Today, an interpretive trail leads through the ruins. There is a visitor center with exhibits detailing aspects of frontier civilian and military life. In the summer months, living history demonstrations are sometimes offered on the weekends from 1 pm to 4 pm (May 1 through September 15).

To get there: Fort Selden State Monument is located off Interstate 25 near Radium Springs, about 13 miles north of Las Cruces. The property is immediately off the El Camino Real Historic Byway. Admission: $3 per person. Sundays are free for New Mexico residents with ID. Ages 16 and under are always free. Open: Wednesdays through Mondays, 8:30 am to 5 pm. Closed Tuesdays.

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Fort Selden State Monument area map