Socorro is a town in the southwestern region of the state of New Mexico, in the United States of America.

Very Large Array west of Socorro


The name Socorro is Spanish for "succor" or "aid," which is what 18th- and 19th-century looked for as they travelled south through the desert between Mexico and Santa Fe. During the late 19th century Socorro was the largest town in what is now New Mexico, as the result of an intense but short-lived mining boom. The bubble burst by the early 1900s, and today Socorro is a smallish town of about 9000 people, dominated by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (a legacy of its mining days and now a well-regarded technical college) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Socorro is in a geologically interesting area, as its mining past might suggest. Scruffy mountains (one decorated with a large "M" denoting the college, formerly the New Mexico School of Mines) rise to the west, while the Rio Grande east of town flows through a major continental rift and has created a number of wetlands -- bosques -- that attract wildlife in this dry region. More ominously, a body of volcanic magma is intruding into near-surface crust not far north of town, creating an uplift that scientists at New Mexico Tech delight in studying. Even though the region has been the site of considerable volcanism in geologically recent times, not to worry; this uplift is not viewed as posing imminent volcanic hazard -- yet.

Get in

The nearest airport with commercial air service is in Albuquerque, about 70 miles north. The nearest train (Amtrak) station is also in Albuquerque. Buses run between Albuquerque and El Paso, Texas with a stop in Socorro.

If you're driving to Socorro, access from Albuquerque and El Paso is via Interstate highway 25, with uniformly good road and full services every 50 miles or so. If approaching from the east (US 380) or west (US 60), however, gas stations are few and far between, so plan accordingly.

Get around

There's not much town to get around in, but the motels along California Avenue do sprawl somewhat and the stores there are some distance from Tech. A bicycle is handy for Tech students, although other visitors are unlikely to need transportation other than what got them to town. Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (see below) is 15 miles away along a road that is pleasant for cycling (although somewhat narrow -- be on the alert for recklessly driven vehicles); most other outlying attractions are far enough away to be best reached by car.


Most of the interest in the Socorro region is outside town and is covered in the "Get out" section, but a couple of in-town points of interest:


Whooping cranes

Socorro, or more accurately the Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge south of town, used to be one of the few places in the world where it was possible to see the enormous, spectacular, and critically endangered whooping crane in the wild, but alas, no longer. For some time researchers experimented with placing whooping-crane eggs in nests of the more common sandhills, in the hopes that the hatchlings would mature and multiply, providing some insurance for the species against catastrophe to the primary wild whooper flock (which winters in Texas). Unfortunately, while the eggs hatched just fine and the whoopers grew to maturity, they didn't breed, for reasons still not understood; the only whooping cranes in the flock were the ones put there by the researchers. The flock therefore never included more than about 15 or 20 whoopers. This was enough to cause massive traffic jams on the road loops at Bosque del Apache when one was visible from the roadside, but not enough to meet the goal of preserving the species; the experiment was eventually abandoned, and the last pure-bred whooping crane in the Bosque flock has now succumbed. The visitor center at the Bosque does include a preserved whooper in a diorama, which will give you a sense of just how spectacular these amazing birds are, but for a live one, you'll have to go to Texas, Canada, or a zoo.




California Avenue, the main drag north-south through town paralleling I-25, has the usual assortment of chain motels and motor lodges (EconoLodge, Super 8, Motel 6, Days Inn, etc.), mostly serviceable, none exceptional. The Holiday Inn Express, 1100 California Ave NE, +1 575 838-0556, has more amenities than most and is comfortable. Lodging in Socorro tends to be tight around the Festival of the Cranes, the second or third weekend of May when New Mexico Tech has its graduation, and also in early October when the overflow from the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta reaches town, but otherwise is usually not hard to get.

Go next

Sandhill cranes at the Bosque del Apache
Routes through Socorro

Albuquerque Belen  N  S  Truth or Consequences Las Cruces
Phoenix Magdalena  W  E  Merges with Mountainair Clovis

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