General Pancho Villa

If Mexican General Pancho Villa had not attacked the sleepy border town of Columbus, New Mexico on March 9, 1916, there wouldn't be a Pancho Villa State Park. However, General Villa did exactly that, making the raid the first ground invasion of the United States since the War of 1812.

Housed at Pancho Villa State Park in the new $1.7 million 7,000-square-foot exhibition hall is an extensive collection of artifacts from General "Black Jack" Pershing's 11-month, 500-mile pursuit of Villa into Mexico. There's a Curtiss JN-3 "Jenny" aircraft, a 1916 Dodge touring car (like the one Pershing used as his field office), military weapons, ribbons and other historic artifacts. The sentinel at the front door is an armored tank from the era. In the end, things learned during the pursuit of Pancho Villa proved to be essential to the American effort when the US finally entered World War I.

Pancho Villa State Park is 60 acres in size with a visitor center in the exhibit hall, a group picnic shelter and 62 developed campsites, all with electric hookups. The camping area has central restroooms, showers and a playground for the kids. The park offers a centrally located RV dump station. Activities available include picnicking, wildlife watching, hiking and exploring the historic buildings of the original Camp Furlong, the objective of the Pancho Villa attack.

The Pancho Villa State Park entry gate is open 24 hours a day, every day. To get there: go 35 miles south of Deming on New Mexico Highway 11 to Columbus. Or go west from El Paso on New Mexico Highway 9 for 65 miles.

Fees: Day-use: $5 per vehicle; Pedestrians and bicyclists get in free. Camping: Primitive sites: $8 per site per night. Developed sites: $10 per site per night. Developed site with either electric or sewer: $14 per site per night. Developed site with both electric and sewer: $18 per site per night. Water hookups aren't always available but when they are, they're free.

The Curtiss JN-3 "Jenny" aircraft
The Curtiss JN-3 "Jenny" aircraft