Thursday, August 27, 2009
Oliver Lee State Park
As you near the top of Dog Canyon, you enter Oliver Lee State Park. Oliver Lee was a huge name in these parts and it is said that at one time he controlled all of the water rights between here and Sacramento Ca. He was a local rancher that at one time had a million acres on his ranch. In the 1880's and 1890's he was very influential and very into the local politics. He became embroiled in them and was indicted for the murder of Col. A. J. Fountain. Colonal Fountain and his young son Henry were taking a buckboard across the basin to Mesilla and disappeared around White Sands. Rumors persist to this day as to the fate of them. Pat Garrett was brought in, and ended up in a gun fight with Oliver Lee when he refused to surrender.
Today, there is a visitor center filled with artifacts relating to the area. Dog Canyon has water and is a natural fortress, easily defended, so people have come here for 6,000 years. The visitor center has displays of ancient arrowheads and tools of the native populations. Along with these are items that belonged to Oliver Lee and were donated by his family and items excavated from Frenchys Cabin. Frenchy is the one we always heard about growing up. He lived here and had an extensive orchard and vineyard. His name was Jean Rochas but is still known as Frency. The remains of his cabin are still visible. He was found dead in his cabin in 1894 from a gun shot wound to his chest and it was concluded that "he shot himself with his own rifle."
Today, along with the visitor center there are overnight camping spots. You can come and picnic or stay. It is peaceful and affords panoramic views of the Tularosa Basin. There are trails to hike and explanations of the desert flora.