Geography of Catron County, New Mexico

Catron County, located in southwestern New Mexico, is the state’s largest county by land area, encompassing a vast and diverse landscape. From its rugged mountains and high desert plains to its scenic rivers and ancient forests, Catron County offers a unique blend of natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities.┬áSee topschoolsintheusa for information about South Valley, New Mexico.


Catron County covers an expansive area of approximately 6,929 square miles, making it larger than the states of Connecticut and Delaware combined. It is bordered by Apache County in Arizona to the west, Socorro County to the east, and Grant and Sierra Counties to the north. The county seat is Reserve, while other notable communities include Datil, Luna, and Glenwood.

The geography of Catron County is characterized by its diverse terrain, which includes portions of the Gila National Forest, the Mogollon Mountains, and the San Francisco River Valley. Elevations in the county range from around 4,000 feet in the valleys to over 10,000 feet in the mountainous areas.


Catron County experiences a varied climate, with elevations playing a significant role in temperature and precipitation patterns. The lower elevations in the valleys tend to have a semi-arid climate, with hot summers and mild winters, while the higher elevations in the mountains have a more temperate climate with cooler temperatures and more precipitation.

Average high temperatures in the summer months typically range from the upper 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit, while winter highs average in the 40s and 50s. Precipitation is relatively low throughout the year, with most of the rainfall occurring during the summer monsoon season from July to September.

Rivers and Waterways:

Catron County is home to several rivers and waterways, which provide habitat for fish and wildlife and support a variety of recreational activities. The San Francisco River, one of the major rivers in the region, flows from north to south through the county and is popular for fishing, kayaking, and rafting.

In addition to the San Francisco River, Catron County is also home to several smaller rivers and streams, including the Gila River, the Blue River, and the Mimbres River. These waterways meander through the county’s rugged landscapes, providing opportunities for outdoor exploration and relaxation.

Lakes and Reservoirs:

While Catron County does not have any major natural lakes, it is home to several reservoirs and impoundments, which offer opportunities for fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing. Some of the largest lakes and reservoirs in the county include Quemado Lake, Luna Lake, and Bear Canyon Lake.

In addition to recreational lakes, Catron County is also home to several stock tanks and ponds, which provide water for livestock and wildlife. These water bodies are scattered throughout the county’s rural landscapes, offering scenic beauty amidst the desert terrain.

Parks and Natural Areas:

Catron County is home to several parks and natural areas, which offer opportunities for outdoor recreation and relaxation. The Gila National Forest, located primarily in the eastern part of the county, features over 3 million acres of protected wilderness, including hiking trails, campgrounds, and scenic overlooks.

In addition to the Gila National Forest, Catron County is also home to several wilderness areas and wildlife refuges, including the Blue Range Wilderness and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. These protected areas provide habitat for a variety of plant and animal species, as well as opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and photography.

Agriculture and Ranching:

Agriculture and ranching are important industries in Catron County, with vast expanses of rangeland and pastureland supporting livestock grazing. Cattle and sheep ranching are particularly common in the county, with many families operating large ranches passed down through generations.

In addition to ranching, Catron County is also home to several small farms and orchards, which produce a variety of crops including hay, alfalfa, and vegetables. Farmers markets and roadside stands offer locally grown produce and agricultural products, providing residents and visitors with fresh, locally sourced food.

Cultural Heritage:

Catron County has a rich cultural heritage, shaped by its history as a center of Native American culture, Spanish exploration, and Western settlement. The county is home to several historic sites and landmarks, including the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, which preserves and interprets the history of the Mogollon culture.

The region is also known for its Native American powwows, rodeos, and cultural festivals, which celebrate the traditions and heritage of the Apache and Navajo tribes. The annual Wild West Fest, held in Reserve, features cowboy poetry, live music, and other Western-themed activities, drawing visitors from across the region.


In conclusion, Catron County, New Mexico, offers a diverse array of landscapes, outdoor recreational opportunities, and cultural attractions. From its rugged mountains and scenic rivers to its vast expanses of desert and forest, the county provides something for everyone to enjoy. Whether exploring a national forest, fishing in a river, or attending a cultural festival, there is always something new to discover in Catron County.