The next town along Route 66 is Santa Rosa (pop. 2,744), which calls itself the “City of Natural Lakes” — an impressive feat in the New Mexico desert. Santa Rosa lies on the famous Pecos River, has 12 spring-fed lakes in the region and offers scuba diving in the famous Blue Hole.
The Blue Hole has been a cooling off (or warming up, considering the year-round temperature of the water is 64 degrees) point since the days when wooly mammoths would pop in for a dip. Legend has it that Billy the Kid cooled off in the Blue Hole a few times in the 1880s. Today, divers can drop 80 feet and explore, although the altitude of the water (the Blue Hole’s surface is about 4,600 feet above sea level) means the dive should be treated as an equivalent to over 100 feet in the ocean. Either way, it’s remarkable enough to see a body of blue water in this part of New Mexico… in fact, views of open water hasn’t been common along Route 66 since Missouri.
The Route 66 Automobile Museum (2411 Historic Route 66, 575-472-1966) offers a wide selection of vintage cars to check out, including a 1958 Edsel that was sitting in the parking lot… you just don’t see that every day.
Along Route 66, Santa Rosa has two sections: the section north of I-40, which is a long commercial stretch with the Route 66 Automobile Museum, and the section south of I-40 (west of the interchange that is Exit 275). Either way, heading through Santa Rosa on Route 66 brings you a wide variety of restaurants and other businesses that make the “golden era” of this road come alive.
In “downtown” Santa Rosa, the county seat business of Guadalupe County comes alive at the County Courthouse, constructed in 1909 on 4th Street just off the main Route 66. It should be noted, however, that the pre-1937 alignment of the highway did go past the Courthouse. Across the street, the Lake City Diner (101 S. 4th Street, 575-472-5253) is a good, recently re-opened option for café and diner food. It’s housed in a building older than the courthouse; built in 1901, what now holds the Lake City Diner was once a bank and the women’s department section of a local clothing store.
BEST WESTERN Santa Rosa Inn
2491 Historic Route 66
Santa Rosa, NM 88435-0501