History Herald: Acequias

by Laura Gonzales, Education & Volunteer Manager

Acequia Madre

Did you know that Acequias are the oldest water management institutions in the United States? They were also the first non-Indigenous form of government in New Mexico, a system still in place in small rural communities. This system of irrigation, brought by the Spanish who learned from the Moors during their occupation of Spain, once supplied water to a large portion of the Southwest. Today, around 700 acequias continue to feed the fields of Northern New Mexico! Each acequia has a mayordomo (ditch boss) and a commission, which oversee the delivery of water, settle disputes, and maintain the ditch system.

These ditches also help to restore aquifers and riparian areas, like here in La Cienega. Because acequias are integral to farms, ranches, and in some cases infrastructure operations, this job is essential in maintaining healthy farming ecosystems. Here at Las Golondrinas our small operations crew works hard tending to our animal friends, crops, and of course the Acequia Madre, or mother ditch, which runs through the site and is used to irrigate our fields. The acequia on Las Golondrinas’ land is part of the La Cienega Acequia, a community shared irrigation ditch that has been active since ca. 1715, and it’s listed on New Mexico’s register of historic places! This is the time of year the crew cleans it and prepares the fields for the growing season. We are all so excited to begin anew this spring and hope to welcome our guests back to this beautiful site this season!

Please Help Us Restore the Ranch After the Flood!

As many of you know, Santa Fe and the surrounding area recently sustained a “1000 year flood.”  La Cienega was hit hard and El Rancho de las Golondrinas sustained major damage as our  performance, wedding and burro fields were all flooded and covered with mud and silt. Fences were downed and access to the Raton School House, El Molino Grande and Sierra Village was blocked when the road and bridge to the backside of the Ranch were destroyed by flood waters.

Flood Damage

Staff immediately brought in heavy equipment to remove mud and debris, and purchased materials to rebuild the road and bridge. Because of the swift action of staff, the other side of the Museum is already back open. However, there is still more work to do repairing fences, cleaning up debris and removing an enormous logjam further down La Cienega Creek on Museum property.  If not removed, this logjam could cause further flooding and damage in the event of heavy rains. We also need to repair our acequia infrastructure as we are currently unable to sufficiently water our historic fields and may lose our crops.  As you know, our crops are a major part of our educational programming, are a fundamental part of who we are and are vital to the success of our long-standing Harvest Festival.

Flood Damage



The Museum desperately needs your help in funding this work.
El Rancho de las Golondrinas is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and contributions referencing this call to action will only be used to repair our flood damage.
Anything you can give will be sincerely appreciated. Please send your donation referencing “Flood Damage” to Kathryn Carey, Director of Development, El Rancho de las Golondrinas, 334 Los Pinos Road, Santa Fe, NM 87507.

You can donate online at the Annual Fund page. When you get to check-out, in the “Additional Information” field, type “Flood Damage” and your contribution will be used to restore the Ranch.

Thank you for your support of this historic property and our educational mission.