Catron County encompasses almost 7000 sq. miles – larger than several states – yet its’ population is only 3725 folks according to the 2010 census. Little has changed from the first census in 1930 when the population was listed at 3282. Of course, the 12,000 elk in the county make up for the lack of people!
The county seat is in Reserve. The name was derived from the establishment of three National Forests: Gila National Forest, Apache National Forest and Cibola National Forest, in the past called “Forest Reserves” There are no stoplights in the entire county. When someone is scheduled to take a driving test, a temporary stoplight is set up in Reserve. There are many cattle ranches in the county, several well over 100,000 acres. For the most part, cattle are still worked on horseback, part of the Western tradition continued by the current generation of ranching families and cowboys, while still providing some of the finest beef to the citizens of the U.S.
New Mexico's cattle ranches range in size from the 290,000 contiguous deeded acres of the Bell Ranch in the northeastern part of the state, to smaller ranches consisting of one or two sections of deeded land and large forest service, state, or Bureau of Land Management grazing leases such as the Luera Ranch in the southwest's Catron County. New Mexico's abundant public lands, available for cattle grazing, add value to private or deeded acreage and support a way of life for New Mexico's ranchers that dates back to the granted land of the 1800's.