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Welcome to McKinley County, New Mexico, USA

Located on the border between New Mexico and Arizona on 5,449 square miles of the San Juan Plateau, McKinley County encompasses an area one hundred miles wide from east to west and forty to seventy miles north to south.  Bisected by the Continental Divide, the county encompasses the scenic Chuska and Zuni Mountains with peaks ranging to the 8,969 feet at the summit of Cerros de Alejandro. 

The region is arid high-plateau range land with grasses, shrubs and scattered trees.  With some variations for microclimates, annual rainfall averages about 12 inches. Snowfall figures range from an average of 10-15 inches to 82 inches at McGaffey.  First frost arrives in western McKinley County about October 10, with the last occurring on about May 10.

The geography that became McKinley County at New Mexico's statehood in 1912 has been populated by Native Americans for centuries, from the Anasazi, or Ancient Ones, to today's contemporary Navajo Nation and Pueblo of Zuni.

According to the Navajo Nation, McKinley County is home not only to Navajo, Zuni and other Pueblo people, but also to substantial numbers of Apache, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chippewa, Choctaw, Creek, Iroquois, Kiowa, Pima, Shoshone, Sioux, and a few Alaskan Athabaskan, Blackfoot, Chickasaw, Comanche, Crow, Osage, Paiute, Potawatomi, Seminole, Tlingit, and Tohono O'Odham.

Irrigated agriculture and ranching have provided a livelihood from the earliest times, together with artisan work as it does today.

The transcontinental train connection brought arriving settlers in the first years of the Twentieth Century to practice farming or work in the developing coal industry.  Extractive industry has been a traditional mainstay of the county's economy, with significant fluctuations in coal, oil and natural gas production.  Coal production began to wane in the 1920s; however, uranium mines thrived in and near the County from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Non-renewable resources include natural gas, oil, coal, uranium, vanadium, crushed stone and perlite.  Renewable resources include forest products, rangeland, solar power and wind power.

Route 66 introduced many cross-country auto tourists to the county and the City of Gallup, its urban hub.  Tourism, particularly from the attraction of Indian culture, arts and crafts, brings numerous visitors and is an important component of the county economy.

Visitor Information

Visitors to McKinley County enjoy the county's history, Indian arts and crafts, and natural resources.  Persons from all over the world travel to the area to appreciate the traditions of the past in the annual ceremonials at Red Rock State Park as well as other events around the county throughout the year.

The site of McKinley County has been a crossroads since Archaic Paleo-Indian hunters trekked through northwest New Mexico about 5,000 B.C.  Later, the Ancient Ones built the first roads through the area.  Their well-engineered transportation system, recognized as the largest and most complex aboriginal land communication system north of Mexico, allowed them to travel and communicate between widely separated settlements and transport goods and raw materials into and out of the population center at Chaco Canyon.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his conquistadors passed by this place as they roamed the area 450 years ago searching for the legendary lost cities of gold. 

In 1880, coal miners began to arrive on the Overland stage, and a way station was established here for short line and local stages.  Later, the Blue Goose, a combined station, saloon and store, was built to service the stageline. 

In April, 1881, the Atlantic and Pacific railroad reached Gallup.  It was a time of wild prosperity for the town, with citizens erecting brick and stone buildings, paving streets, and celebrating with gambling, drinking, and ladies of the night.  David L. Gallup, the railroad's auditor and paymaster, set up shop out of a siding in the new settlement, and railroad construction workers started to talk about "going to Gallup" to get paid.  Ten years later, in 1891, Gallup became an incorporated town.

McKinley County history is a story of highways, from the Anasazi road system to the Overland stage route.  The railroad distributed Indian goods to eager buyers throughout the country.  Route 66 and the I-40 Interstate Highway brought tourists and the Hollywood film industry.  Most recently the Information Highway came through Gallup, and now Indian Traders are conducting a lively global trading business on the Internet.

The history of McKinley County is above all a story of people, aboriginal hunters and great ancient civilizations, Spanish fortune-seekers, immigrant coal miners and railroad men, Indian traders, cowboys, tourists and movie stars.