State: New Mexico – NM

Published on September 9th, 2015 | by Brandon Ramsey in Geography


Situated in the southwestern/western region of the United States, the New Mexico state abbreviation is NM. It was one of the more recent states to be added to the Union in 1912 as the 47th of the 50 states. While it’s one of the largest, it is also one of the least densely populated.

Today we’re going to look at several aspects of this place, including the geography, climate, and economy here. Before we begin, let’s take a look at some key information and a small overview to introduce you to this place:

  • State abbreviation: NM
  • Capital: Santa Fe
  • Largest city: Albuquerque
  • Total area: 121,589 square miles (5th largest)
  • Population density: 17.2/sq. mile (ranked 45th)
  • Admitted to the Union: January 6th, 1912 (47th)
  • Time zone: Mountain UTC -7/-6
  • State bird: Greater roadrunner
  • Fish: Rio Grande cutthroat trout
  • Flower: Yucca
  • Mammal: American black bear
  • State flag
  • Official Website: newmexico.gov

map of New Mexico in the United States

NM State Overview

For centuries prior to the arrival of European settlers there were indigenous peoples living in the Americas. NM began as a part of the Imperial Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain. For a time it was also a part of Mexico before finally becoming a U.S. territory and eventually a state.

Out of all the United States, this one has the largest percentage of Hispanics in the population. These include descendants of the Spanish colonists who came to the area over 400 years ago. In addition, it is also the second largest percentage of Native Americans, Alaska being the first.

The Native American nations within this state include the Navajo, Puebloan, and Apache peoples.  These factors have contributed to the demographics and cultural aspects of this place. It is also reflected in the state flag. For example, the gold and scarlet colors represent the royal colors of Spain.

The sun symbol on the flag represents the Zia which is a Pueblo-related tribe. The name is translated to Nuevo México in Spanish. Many people believe that the state’s name comes from Mexico itself, but that is not the case. The name began in 1563 when Spanish explorers believed that the area housed Indian cultures similar to the Mexica or Aztec Empire.

The nation of Mexico received its name centuries later in 1821 after it claimed independence from Spanish rule. New Mexico was a part of Mexico for twelve years between 1836 and 1848.

Map of New Mexico

Geography and Climate

The total area of NM is 121,412 square miles. The eastern border connects with both Oklahoma and Texas. The Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora are to the west, along with Arizona. The northern boundary connects with Colorado, Arizona, and Utah to form the Four Corners.

Despite being so large, there is very little water here, less than 250 square miles. The landscape is varied, it ranges from rose-colored deserts, to mesas, to snow-topped mountains. Most people imagine it as a dry and arid place, but there heavily forested mountain regions cover a large part of the state in the north.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountains make up the southernmost portion of the Rocky Mountains. They run north to south along the eastern side of the Rio Grande river. The most important river in the state is the Rio Grande, but the Pecos, Canadian, San Juan, and Gila rivers are also important.

There are millions of acres in the state which are considered national forests. These include the following:

  • Carson National Forest
  • Cibola National Forest
  • Lincoln National Forest
  • Santa Fe National Forest
  • Gila National Forest
  • Gila Wilderness.

There are also sixteen different areas that are managed by the National Park Service. A few examples:

  • Aztec Ruins National Monument
  • Old Spanish National Historic Trail
  • White Sands National Monument
  • Pecos National Historical Park

A large amount of money from tourism comes from people who come to see the surviving native pueblos. The climate here ranges from semi-arid to full on arid. Certain areas of the state have continental and alpine climates as well. These are relegated to the mountains and high plains.

The Great Plains in the eastern portion of the state are similar to the ones found in eastern Colorado. In fact, both of these states have very similar features. The average annual rainfall is 13.9 inches per year. The average temperatures range from 64 degrees Fahrenheit to below 40 degrees in the northern mountains.

During the summer, temperatures can rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest temperature recorded here was 122 degrees Fahrenheit near Loving in 1994. The lowest temperature is -50 degrees Fahrenheit at Gavilan in 1951.

With a wide variety of terrain and climate, New Mexico is also home to many different species of plants and animals. Everything from species of cactus, to pine and aspen trees are found here. Animals are equally varied and range from wolves, to deer, bison, sheep, snakes, and more. The state’s official animal, the Black Bear, is native to this place and was chosen in 1953.

New Mexico’s Economy

The highest drivers of the state’s economy include oil and gas production, tourism, and federal government spending. The gross domestic product in 2010 was $80 billion and estimated to be $85 billion in 2013. NM is the third leading producer of crude oil in the U.S.

Federal government spending helps as well. For example, in 2005 the federal government spent $2.03 for every dollar of tax revenue collected from the state. This high rate of return is more than any other state.

Many federal jobs in NM are for the military. Three air force bases are located here:

  • Kirtland Air Force Base
  • Holloman Air Force Base
  • Cannon Air Force Base

The White Sands Missile Range is another example, along with Fort Bliss which is an army proving ground. A study done by the New Mexico State University showed that 11.65% of the state’s total employment comes from military spending.

There are several incentives in place to bring new business to the state as well. These include tax credits and tax exemptions based on job creation. There are also financial incentives in place for film production. Since 2003, this program has brought over 85 film projects to the state and added $1.2 to the economy.

Final Thoughts

We’re not done yet! Check out our New Mexico state facts next to continue expanding your knowledge! In the meantime, be sure to share your own information about this state in the comments below!

printable map of New Mexico



About the Author
Brandon Ramsey

Brandon Ramsey is the head author and editor of The Time Now Blog. Be sure to follow us via social media!


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