Kiowa National Grassland – Mills, New Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Kiowa National Grassland

Mills, New Mexico

Adobe ruins punctuate the beauty of an 800 foot canyon carved by the Canadian River. 


88 miles northeast of Las Vegas, New Mexico lies the Kiowa National Grassland, a seemingly flat plain of, well, not much of anything. Ranches. Tumbleweeds. Telephone poles. That’s about all you’ll see from Route 39, until you turn off on Mills Canyon road and head west for a few miles. And then, all of sudden, the plains drop into a canyon carved over millennia by the Canadian River.

There’s a campground right before the road drops into the canyon, and then another campground down in the canyon itself. It’s a stunning view as you head down the canyon to its floor, which is what entrepreneur Melvin Mills must have thought when he built an orchard and farm here in the late 1800s, bringing the first modern attention to the lovely area.

But unfortunately for Mills, a massive flood wiped out his orchard a scant decade later, in 1904. Mills chose not to rebuild, so now, 110 years later, a group of terrific ruins remain in the middle of this stunning canyon that the Canadian River snakes through.

The area is also not only sparsely populated but also not well known among campers and hikers, so the only encounter you are likely to have at the site will be with some prancing antelope and crumbling pieces of history.

Know Before You Go

Turnoff to Mills Canyon Road is 16 miles south of Abbot, NM on Rt. 39; it's about 10 miles north of Roy, NM on Rt. 39.