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Lincoln County, New Mexico facts for kids

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Lincoln County
Old Lincoln County courthouse in Lincoln
Old Lincoln County courthouse in Lincoln
Official seal of Lincoln County
Map of New Mexico highlighting Lincoln County
Location within the U.S. state of New Mexico
Map of the United States highlighting New Mexico
New Mexico's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  New Mexico
Founded 1869
Named for Abraham Lincoln
Seat Carrizozo
Largest village Ruidoso
 • Total 4,831 sq mi (12,510 km2)
 • Land 4,831 sq mi (12,510 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.5 km2)  0.0%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 4.2/sq mi (1.6/km2)
Time zone UTC−7 (Mountain)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
Congressional district 2nd

Lincoln County is a county in the U.S. state of New Mexico. As of the 2010 census, the population was 20,497. Its county seat is Carrizozo, while its largest community is Ruidoso.


It was once the largest county in the United States. In the late 1870s the so-called Lincoln County War broke out between ranchers and the owners of the county's largest general store. William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid, became involved on the side of the ranchers after his friend and employer was killed. In the end, Bonney killed the deputy that killed his friend, another deputy, and the county sheriff. Several other people were slain in the conflict, which included the other leader of the rancher faction. His death ended the conflict. In 1878, the new territorial governor, retired Union General Lew Wallace, offered amnesty to the combatants to bring a long-lasting truce between the factions.

Today, Lincoln County is a peaceful county. Most of the population is in the county's southern portion in the Greater Ruidoso Area. The town of Carrizozo serves as the county seat and is in the Tularosa Basin northwest of Ruidoso. Ruidoso boasts several small suburbs and neighbor communities including Ruidoso Downs, Hollywood, Mescalero, and Alto which contribute to the Ruidoso Micropolitan Statistical Area's population of 21,224. Ruidoso serves as the second largest city in south central New Mexico behind Alamogordo which is 46 miles southwest of the village. Ruidoso Downs on the southern end of the county and southeast of Ruidoso operates the Ruidoso Downs Racetrack and Casino. The track hosts both thoroughbred and quarter horse racing, notably the All American Futurity, the richest race in quarter horse racing. Historical figures from Lincoln County include Billy the Kid and Smokey Bear, whose names help drive the tourism trade that is heavily popularized within the county.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 4,831 square miles (12,510 km2), virtually all of which is land.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

  • Cibola National Forest (part)
  • Fort Stanton – Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area
  • Lincoln National Forest (part)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 7,822
1920 7,823 0.0%
1930 7,198 −8.0%
1940 8,557 18.9%
1950 7,409 −13.4%
1960 7,744 4.5%
1970 7,560 −2.4%
1980 10,997 45.5%
1990 12,219 11.1%
2000 19,411 58.9%
2010 20,497 5.6%
Est. 2019 19,572 −4.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2016

2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 20,497 people, 9,219 households, and 5,859 families living in the county. The population density was 4.2 inhabitants per square mile (1.6/km2). There were 17,519 housing units at an average density of 3.6 per square mile (1.4/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 85.1% white, 2.4% American Indian, 0.5% black or African American, 0.4% Asian, 9.2% from other races, and 2.5% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 29.8% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 17.0% were Irish, 15.6% were German, 12.3% were English, and 4.8% were American.

Of the 9,219 households, 23.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.5% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, 36.4% were non-families, and 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.72. The median age was 49.4 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $43,750 and the median income for a family was $53,871. Males had a median income of $34,306 versus $29,836 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,290. About 8.1% of families and 12.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.7% of those under age 18 and 7.8% of those age 65 or over.





Census-designated place

Other communities

Ghost town

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