Take a trip to the past: Celebrate history in Jemez Springs

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By Kirsten Laskey

Perhaps one of the biggest privileges of living in Los Alamos is that there is a multitude of attractions that are only steps away from your front door.


My parents and I recently took advantage of Los Alamos’ geographic location and headed to Jemez Springs.

Jemez Springs may only be a stone’s throw away from Los Alamos, but it felt hidden and secluded once we arrived in its town limits. The towering mountains that surround Jemez, along with a dense curtain of pine trees, made us feel as though we were miles away from surrounding communities.

The seclusion seemed to slow down time and with the fantastic ruins at Jemez State Monument and the original bathhouse still intact, it felt as though the past was right at our heels.

Time has not come to a standstill in Jemez Springs, but the past is warmly embraced and widely celebrated in this town.

The visitor center at the state monument provides information about the Jemez pueblo and offers glimpses of the pueblo’s past through artifacts of pottery and ceremonial costumes.

Walking out of the visitor center’s door, we were confronted with an extensive labyrinth of sand-colored stone ruins of the Giusewa Pueblo. Along the path, we saw the second-oldest mission church in New Mexico. The roof has vanished but the mission’s high walls still stand. It was quiet as we walked past the ruins, but then again when encountering something beautiful and ancient, words tend to escape the mind.

Walking through this piece of history, it was hard to believe that just below us, the present day was being celebrated with great fanfare. Independence Day festivities were being held throughout the town. On either side of the road, cars and motorcycles were crammed into every available spot.

The three of us weaved through the crowd in search of the town’s original bathhouse.

We finally encountered the structure, which was tucked back beside a modern-day spa center. I’m not going to lie — the building looked like it was hanging on by a thread. It was cracked and snagged in some places and withered and rotted in others. But the sign, which was stamped onto the front of the building, could still be easily read.

Staring at the bathhouse sign, I realized the significance of this building was not its appearance. Jemez’s original bathhouse is significant because no matter what it has endured throughout its history, the building continues to stand.

Later, my mother and I traveled up to the Soda Dam, which is just outside of Jemez Springs.

The natural dam, we learned from a sign, was created by the precipitation of minerals from a collection of hot springs. Looking at the how the rocks were reshaped to swirl and churn like petrified water, we could see what nature has accomplished over hundreds of years.

I left Jemez thinking that the wonders that a period of time can produce are remarkable.