Catron County

Catron County, New Mexico

Catron County is a county located in the U.S. state of New Mexico. As of 2000, the population was 3,543. Its county seat is Reserve. Catron County is the largest county, by area, in New Mexico


Once located in the Santa Fé de Nuevo México and later in the Arizona Territory, the area forming Catron County was a part of neighboring Socorro County until 1923, when Catron was formed. Before that point the county had a history indicative of many places in the Wild West, replete with gunfights, shootouts, massacres, and gold mines.

Famous figures and events

The Mimbres culture was part of the Mogollon people who lived throughout the region where Catron County sits today. Their art is renowned for its beauty.

Sergeant James C. Cooney was the first person to find silver and gold ore in the mountains of Catron County. He was reportedly killed by Chiricahua Apaches led by Victorio in what became known as the "Alma Massacre". Cochise was another famous Chiricahua leader, while the infamous Goyaałé (Geronimo) had several hideouts in the county.

Cowboy legend Elfego Baca was the hero of the so-called Frisco Shootout in San Francisco Plaza in 1884, while Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch gang holed up at a ranch near Alma, New Mexico, around the turn of the century. Notorious outlaw Tom Ketchum also lived in Catron County.

The Lightning Field, an art installation, brought national attention to Quemado in the late 1970s.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 6,929 square miles (17,946 km²), of which, 6,928 square miles (17,943 km²) of it is land and 1 square miles (3 km²) of it (0.02%) is water.

Catron County is the largest county, by area, in New Mexico. At almost 7,000 square miles, Catron County is larger than a few Eastern states. With a population of only 3,400 people, the county is as sparsely populated as many an old West frontier area.

Within the boundaries of Catron County lie parts of the Gila National Forest, the Apache National Forest and the Cibola National Forest. The establishment of these national forests, in the past called "forest reserves," led to the name Reserve being given to a village on the San Francisco River.

Bordering Arizona, Catron County affords the shortest route between Albuquerque and Phoenix or Tucson. Reserve can also be reached by following U.S. Route 180 north from Silver City and N.M. Highway 12 east for a total of 99 miles.

Adjacent counties

Natural features

In Catron County there is a volcanic area that until recently contained sufficient heat to cause steam to rise after a slight rain. It is called Burning Mountain and appears to have been used by the Apache for healing purposes.





Points of interest


As of the census of 2000, there were 3,543 people, 1,584 households, and 1,040 families residing in the county. The population density was 0.51 people per square mile (0.20/km²). There were 2,548 housing units at an average density of 0.37 per square mile (0.14/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 87.75% White, 0.28% Black or African American, 2.20% Native American, 0.68% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 5.42% from other races, and 3.61% from two or more races. 19.16% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 1,584 households out of which 22.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.40% were married couples living together, 7.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.30% were non-families. 30.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.75.

In the county the population was spread out with 21.10% under the age of 18, 4.20% from 18 to 24, 19.50% from 25 to 44, 36.40% from 45 to 64, and 18.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48 years. For every 100 females there were 104.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $23,892, and the median income for a family was $30,742. Males had a median income of $26,064 versus $18,315 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,951. About 17.40% of families and 24.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.60% of those under age 18 and 14.90% of those age 65 or over.



Other localities


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