Truth or Consequences

We met the tour van in Truth or Consequences, NM to take us to the Space Port yesterday. Truth or consequences, or T or C for short, is 150 miles south of Albuquerque, NM just off of I-25. Today it is probably best known for Elephant Butte Lake and State Park, but it also is known for its odorless hot springs, and before 1950 it was named Hot Springs, NM.  In 1950, Ralph Edwards, the host of the popular radio show that eventually became the popular television show Truth or Consequences, announced that he would air the show from any town that would change its name to Truth or Consequences. Hot Springs won the honor, officially changed its name, and Edwards visited the town for a fiesta every May for many years after that. T or C voted to keep the name in 1967, but there is new talk of changing the name back to Hot Springs since many people today do not associate it with the game show that went off the air in the late 1980’s.

Another attraction in T or C is Elephant Butte Dam. Construction started in 1911 and the dam was completed in 1916 (20 years before Hoover Dam). The dam was a high tech engineering marvel of its day at 300 feet high, almost 1700 feet long and 228 feet wide at the base. The project made irrigation available to about 180,000 acres of farmland. There is also a 28,000 kilowatt  generating station at the base of the dam that was installed in the 1940’s; it currently generates enough power for about 20 homes.

Water has gone over the spillway twice in its 100 year history, and I got to pull a “you saw water going over the spillway when you were just 9 months old,” on my daughter yesterday. The 1980’s were a wet decade for NM, with 1986 was the high water mark for Elephant Butte. I raced the first Tour of the Gila bicycle race in Silver City, NM at the end of May 1987, and we stopped to see the water running over the spillway on the way home from the race. Of course Tristan didn’t remember, but I got a certain satisfaction out of telling her she saw it, because my parents did that to me all the time — “Oh yeah your were there with us when you were 2 years old!” they would tell me. Thanks! Like I remember places we visited when I was two. Fortunately for Tristan, we didn’t take her to very many places worth remembering until she was old enough to remember them, however, the historic water going over the spillway at Elephant Butte Dam happened to be an exception.

As you can see from the photos, the lake is very low right now. New Mexico is a high, arid desert and wet decades like the 1980’s are not normal. So what people have been calling a drought for the past 20 years or so, is really more normal for New Mexico; although the past few years have been very dry, so the cycle has probably swung to the opposite extreme from the wet period we had in the 1980s. The peaks between very wet periods and really dry periods for New Mexico seem to run in 50 to 60 year cycles based on the NOAA weather data we got when we had a NOAA weather station on the property.

Looking southwest above the dam. The Rio Grande and distant mountains.
Project buildings along the Rio Grande below the dam
The power station at the base of the dam
Panoramic view of the dam and lake. The large island or “Butte” near the center of the photo is thought to look like an elephant
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