In the far northeast corner of New Mexico lies Union County. Bordering the Colorado, Texas and the Oklahoma panhandle, Union County is home to national grasslands, large ranches and dinosaur tracks. The county's largest city, Clayton, offers golf, parks, museums and the Union County Fairgrounds. Nearby attractions include sites along the Historic Santa Fe Trail, Outlaw Black Jack Ketchum's gravesite and the Kiowa National Grasslands. Folsom, site of the discovery of Folsom Man from ca. 12,000 BC, lies between Clayton and Raton. Capulin Volcano National Monument offers views of New Mexico and parts of four contiguous states: Kansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma.
More than 500 dinosaur tracks were discovered at Clayton Lake State Park in the early 1980s. Their age is estimated at 100 million years, in the late age of dinosaurs. Every April, dinosaur days are held in Clayton. An arts festival takes place each October and the city hosts the Union County Fair in August of each year.
Clayton Lake, 12 miles north of Clayton on Hwy 370, was created by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department in 1955 as a fishing lake and winter waterfowl resting area. A dam was constructed across Seneca Creek. During the fishing season from March to October, the lake is a popular spot for anglers hoping to catch trout, bass, walleye, bullheads, and sunfish.
Capulin Volcano National Monument was designated a U.S. National Monument on August 9, 1916. It is an example of an extinct cinder cone volcano that is part of the Raton-Clayton Volcanic Field. A paved road spirals around the volcano and visitors can drive up to a parking lot at the rim. Hiking trails circle the rim as well as lead down into the mouth of the volcano.
The visitor center features exhibits about the volcano and the area's geology, natural and cultural history, and offers educational programs about volcanoes. There is also a video presentation about the volcano.
Kiowa National Grassland is an area full of rugged, natural beauty and is rich in history. The Grasslands were home to many American Indian tribes before white settlement. With the Homestead Act of 1862, settlers began to pour into the prairie. They were lured by the promise of a better life, and cheap. The promise of cheap land drew settlers out west, but the area proved too dry to raise crops. The area was deserted by settlers.
The area became one of the Federal government's Land Utilization Projects in the 1930s. In 1960, the land was transferred to the Forest Service, and they were then designated as National Grasslands.
Today, visitors can look for unique species of birds and other wildlife as they hike through the grasslands.