Geographical Index > United States > New Mexico > Taos County > Article # 568

Media Article # 568
Article submitted by BFRO Investigator Caroline Curtis

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bigfoot in Red River

By Mike Smith
My Strange New Mexico

The town of Red River lies high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northeastern New Mexico’s Taos County—8,650 feet above sea level—and yet it is still thousands of feet below the pine- and fir-covered peaks that surround it.

Barely 100 miles northeast of Santa Fe, and just about 40 miles northeast of Taos, Red River has managed to remain a world all its own, a mountain world of sharp morning air and wind in trees. Laid out along both sides of a mile of the serpentine State Road 38, and home to about 500 permanent residents, this town at the junction of Bitter Creek and the Red River lures visitors from all over the American West—and might lure others, of a different, and larger, and much harrier, sort as well.

Middle-aged German men?


Well: maybe. Probably.

But we were talking about Bigfoot.

Red River was officially founded in 1895 as Red River City, and by 1900 discoveries of gold, silver, and copper had attracted more than 3,000 residents, who homesteaded the area in tents and cabins, and who established stores, newspapers, hotels, and ten notoriously rowdy saloons. Famed outlaw Black Jack Ketchum allegedly patronized Red River’s dances, and Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa purportedly gave his spurs to a local man whose wife used them to tie back her drapes. From the 1920s on, mining gave way to tourism, and Red River soon became regionally famous as a four-season mountain playground, known for its skiing, and its trails.

In Red River, there are nightclubs, bars, and restaurants, Jeep tours to mining ruins, aspen groves, hiking and horse trails, and high country lakes that were first stocked in the 1920s by mules fitted with metal containers full of water and fish. . In colder months, skiers and snowboarders fly down the trails of the Red River Ski Area, and every Thanksgiving they are invited to sled down on frozen turkeys. In the summer, guests at the various chateau-style hotels can step out their doors, walk a minute to a chairlift, and ride up the slopes for startling views of the state’s tallest mountains.

But is the story of Red River actually much weirder? As its history shaped it into the town it is today, was a race of legendarily elusive ape-men watching it all from the surrounding woods? Were the hairy bipeds we now call Bigfoot striding just a bend ahead of the miners who searched for gold in the area’s streams? And do the red eyes of the Sasquatch watch skiers from behind snow-covered bushes?

Some people would have us think so.

Since 1976, according to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), at least 32 Bigfoot sightings have been reported in the state of New Mexico. In May of 2000, according to that organization’s website (, an anonymous wildlife biologist and professor was hiking with a group of “two or three” unnamed students from an unspecified college, up a dirt trail to Middle Fork Lake, not far south of Red River, when he discovered a number of unusually large footprints crossing the trail.

“In shape and contour, the tracks appeared human,” he allegedly wrote on “No details, such as toe impressions, remained or could be readily detected, but every indication was that tracks had been made by bare feet not boots. ...The tracks were huge, at least sixteen inches or more in length and quite wide. The depth of the tracks in the snow and soil was far beyond what I could duplicate; it was obvious, even to the students, that whatever or whoever made the tracks had immense weight.... As best as I could determine, the tracks appeared to be going in the direction of Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain [approximately eight miles south of Red River].”

The report is interesting, but its credibility suffers from its total failure to name witnesses, by the failure of the professor and his students to make a cast of or even photograph what could have been one of the biggest scientific discoveries ever, and by its casual dismissal of any alternate explanations. This particular case seems best explained by the tracks having been made by a hiker with a heavy pack, after which his or her footprints thawed and froze, thawed and froze, growing larger as a result.

Since 2000, there have been at least two other dubious reports of Bigfoot within Taos County, none of them very far from Red River itself.

One allegedly took place on September 27, 2006, reported by a 67-year-old Costilla, New Mexico man, Arturo “Homie” Mart’nez, who told of finding an unusual piece of aspen wood that he noticed bore a natural resemblance to a vaguely human face.

That, he said, occurred near the New Mexico-Colorado border, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, and not long afterward, on a subsequent trip, he and a “super friend” of his, drove further into the mountains, and discovered an aspen grove with the tops of a number of its trees unusually snapped off and then strewn all over the forest road as if to keep away intruders. Mart’nez and his friend drove around a curve, and a tire of their vehicle mysteriously exploded. Elk were bugling in the distance, and then the bugling seemed to become a roar, and then... Then, lumbering just inside the edge of the aspen grove, they saw something terrifying: a strange beast—a bear-like creature, about the size of a bear, with dark, bear-like fur, walking hunched over on only two feet, just as bears will often do for short distances, and they knew it could only be one thing: Bigfoot.

“I am convinced I saw what many call Sasquatch,” Mart’nez later said, and he and his friend were so petrified by what they saw that they ran down the mountain, picked up a spare tire, came back in the dark to put it on their vehicle, and then decided to stay and camp there until morning. The experience made such an impression on them, that one of the first things Mart’nez did the following year was to tell a single reporter from The Taos News all about it. (That story appeared in the paper on January 18, 2007, about four months after the incident. )

“I decided to tell my story because America, wake up, these creatures exist,” Mart’nez told the Taos News, but his story would carry a lot more weight if it wasn’t so riddled with unconnected superstition such as the aspen face and the seemingly-supernaturally-flattened tire; if Mart’nez hadn’t neglected to bring a camera or tape recorder with him when he came back; if Mart’nez and his friend hadn’t counter-intuitively returned in the dark to scene of their alleged terror; and if Mart’nez and his friend weren’t already reputed to, at least according to area man Lee Vigil in’s comments section, “have many stories of aliens, brujas and diablos who roam the high country in the Costilla area.”

(It seems Mart’nez may be to northern New Mexico what Ramon Ortiz is to the Boot Heel—which means "My Strange New Mexico" won’t be contacting him in person, for fear we’ll have to threaten to get a restraining order against him eleven months from now....)

And a third incident, on October 2 and 3, 2006, reportedly involved a pair of anonymous hunters, camped out near Gallegos Peak, just under forty miles south of Red River, who heard “a strange sound like scream/howl,” the apparent sounds of knocking or of two sticks being hit together, high-pitched “vocalizations” like those of an unknown wounded animal, and smelled a smell like that of something dead. One of the hunters also allegedly told BFRO investigator D.K. Warner that he noticed fallen trees near the site, trees that seemed to have been crossed purposefully as if to block their exit. There's no denying that the account contains some frightening details,but to suggest them as evidence for Bigfoot seems to be a bit of a stretch, when at the story's essence, it’s little more than an account of people hearing some unidentified sounds in the forest.

This report, like the anonymous professor’s, and like hundreds of others’ filed from all across the United States, fails to offer any actual evidence or credible sources to attribute the stories to, and suggests it’s highly likely that these tales are as tall as the creatures they describe. Taller, really. In Mart’nez’s case, we have a story in which every detail hints at a more likely explanation—from a treetop-shearing ice storm, to a bear—and in the two other cases bookending it, we have no actual individuals to attribute the stories to, and so perhaps nothing that even needs explaining.

Bigfoot may still be out there, sure, but no evidence seems to suggest that he is.

Let’s not rewrite Red River’s—or Taos County’s—entire history just yet.

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