There is more to the Land of Enchantment than wide open desert. Continue reading to learn 20 fascinating facts about New Mexico.
1 New Mexico was originally an American territory that also included all of Arizona and parts of Nevada, Colorado, and Utah.
2 While New Mexico's current boundaries were drawn by Congress in 1863, New Mexico was not made an official state until 1912.
3 Every October, Albuquerque, New Mexico famously hosts the world’s largest hot air balloon festival.
4 The world’s first atomic bomb was tested and detonated in 1945 near Alamogordo, New Mexico.
5 New Mexico is home to the country's largest national forest. The Gila National Forest is 3.3 million acres.
6 Smokey the Bear, the face of wildfire prevention, was an actual bear cub found in a tree after New Mexico's Lincoln National Forest suffered a large wildfire in 1950. In 1963, to honor Smokey, the black bear became New Mexico's official state animal.
7 New Mexico is home to numerous indigenous Pueblo natives. The Pueblo people of New Mexico and other southwestern states have lived in the same area longer than any other culture in the entire United States.
8 New Mexico is considered a bilingual state in its constitution. Roughly one in three families speak Spanish at home, and around 48% of the population is Hispanic.
9 New Mexico's sheep and cattle populations far exceed the amount of people that live in the state.
10 New Mexico's economy is greatly supported by both natural resource collection/mining and scientific research.
11 New Mexico and the country of Mexico receive their name from the Aztec god of war, Mexitli. New Mexico was named in the 16th century when Spanish explorers hoped to find Aztec riches in the area.
12 New Mexico has more Ph.D.'s per capita than any other state in the United States.
13 Santa Fe, New Mexico's capital, was founded in 1610, making it the oldest capital city in the United States.
14 Famous New Mexicans include Demi Lovato, Neil Patrick Harris, John Denver, Demi Moore, and Freddie Prinze, Jr.
15 New Mexico's state flower is the yucca flower, and its state bird is the greater roadrunner.
16 New Mexico's state nickname is the "Land of Enchantment" due to its stunning natural beauty.
17 New Mexico's Taos Pueblo building is believed to be the oldest continuously-inhabited structure in the world. Experts estimate it was built between 1000 and 1450 A.D., and to this day its walls are continuously repaired with mud.
18 Navajo soldiers from New Mexico used their unwritten language to relay strategic information during World War II.
19 New Mexico is famous for its UFO sightings. Roswell, New Mexico has been a popular attraction for UFO enthusiasts all over the world since the 1950s.
20 Santa Fe is the state capital with the most unpaved roads in the country. Dust can be a huge issue and, for this reason, the speed limit is often limited to 55 mph on dirt roads.