In the early 1930s, archaeologists in eastern New Mexico unearthed remnants of prehistoric animals like mammoths, camels, and saber-tooth tigers. More important, this was the first site in the contiguous United States that provided conclusive evidence that humans lived here at least 11,300 years ago. The culture and artifacts associated with these earliest inhabitants take their name from the nearby city of Clovis. The Black Water Draw Museum contains photographs of early excavations, along with artifacts from Clovis, Folsom, and later Native American civilizations. The museum looks a little lonely on the side of U.S. 70, 8 mi northeast of Portales, but its interior is cheerful, with informative, well-presented exhibits and a "touch and feel" table for children.
The Black Water Draw Archaeological Site remains active and is open at regular hours to visitors in summer and on weekends in spring and fall. Self-guided tours on developed trails are well worth the effort for the
privilege of viewing work in progress at a major archaeological site. Stay strictly on the trails, which offer options of ¾-mi or ½-mi round-trips with about 20 different interpretive stops with signs describing vegetation and geology (the wildflowers following spring rains can be spectacular). On hot days, wear a hat, use sunscreen, and carry water for these excursions. An exhibit building offers a fascinating look at ongoing excavations of prehistoric animal bones, and an ancient, hand-dug well can be viewed near the exhibit building.