Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Grants, New Mexico: More Than You Think

There are those who'd say that Grants, New Mexico, offers little to justify an overnight - or God forbid - a two-night stay.

I have a different opinion.

Northwestern New Mexico Visitors Center, Grants, New Mexico

The Northwestern New Mexico Visitors Center, just outside of Grants, is a wonder of a visitors center. Operated jointly by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, the center is a beauty in design and the scenic vista you view through the panoramic windows.  The staff are friendly and helpful. There is a treasury of written informational materials, most of them free. The bathrooms sparkle.  You can watch movies. There's a small museum.

Sandstone Bluff, El Malpais, near Grants, New Mexico

El Malpais National Monument is within an hour of Grants, whether you access it via Highway 117 (exit 89 off of I-40 or Highway 53 (exit 81 off of I-40). Within El Malpais are popular destinations Sandstone Bluffs, La Ventana Arch, and Lava Falls. There are good opportunities for hiking and photography.

El Morro National Monument, on Highway 53, showcases the Inscription Trail (wheelchair accessible), which includes about 2000 petroglyphs and carved inscriptions from Spanish (and later) passers-by.

Uranium mine, New Mexico Mining Museum, Grants, New Mexico

New Mexico Mining Museum in Grants focuses on the uranium mines in New Mexico, during their heyday in the 50s through 90s. There's a facsimile of a uranium mine at the museum, where you descend in an elevator and walk through an abbreviated form of a mine. When my mother, Carol, and I visited in December, there was an added, um, thrill when the fire alarm went off accidentally and the staff couldn't turn it off til many minutes later. Carol and I were down in the mine alone and although our heads told us this was just a technical glitch, our nervous systems were saying, "get out, get out!" 

I regret the museum chooses not to address the side effects of uranium mining on the miners and on the environment. When museums omit such important information, the result is we only get part of a story.  The New York Times did a story in March 2012 on abandoned uranium mines in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah: Uranium Mines Dots Navajo Land, Neglected and Still Perilous. Companies that abandoned mines include Chevron and General Electric, among others. I saw no mention in the museum, either, of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which provides some monetary compensation to individuals exposed to radiation due to atomic testing and uranium mining.   

Uranium Watch is an organization that tries to stay on top of what's going on with uranium mining, both active and passive.

Uranium mine, New Mexico Mining Museum, Grants, New Mexico

We didn't check these places out, but also close to Grants are:

Cebolla Wilderness 
Zuni Pueblo
Bluewater Lake State Park

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