Lincoln County was named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln. It was once the largest county in the U.S. with 4,831 square miles.
In the late 1870’s the so-called Lincoln County War broke out between ranchers and the owners of the county’s largest general store. William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, became involved killing a couple of deputies and the county sheriff. and eventually his death ended the conflict.
Most of the population of 19,429 live in the southern portion in the Greater Ruidoso Area. The town of Carrizozo serves as the county seat while its largest community is Ruidoso. Ruidoso Downs operates the Ruidoso Downs Racetrack and Casino that hosts both thoroughbred and quarter horse racing, notably the All American Futurity, the richest race in quarter horse racing.
The modern Lincoln National Forest includes the Lincoln Forest Preserve, the Gallinas Forest Preserve, the Guadalupe National Forest, and the Sacramento National Forest encompassing environments from the desert shrubs of the Chihuahuan Desert through forests of piñon, pine, and juniper. Eventually, the forest boundaries changed forming three separate areas: The Smokey Bear Ranger District in Ruidoso, the Sacramento Ranger District in Cloudcroft, and the Guadalupe Ranger District in Carlsbad. The high mountains of the Sacramentos are also home to the National Solar Observatory’s Richard B. Dunn Solar Telescope, considered the world’s premier high resolution optical solar telescope in 1969.
One of the most enduring of stories to come out of the long history of the forest is the tale of the real-life Smokey Bear, a bear cub rescued from the devastated forest after the Capitan Gap fire in 1950. Smokey Bear became the Forest Service’s living symbol of fire awareness and prevention.