Otero County was the nineteenth of the thirty-three counties to be created. Established in 1899, the county was created from parts of Doña Ana, Lincoln, and Socorro Counties.
It was named for Miguel Antonio Otero, territorial governor at the time of its creation. At 6,627 square miles, it is the third largest county in New Mexico and thirty-fifth largest in the United States. Only 10% of the land area is privately owned; the Federal government, the Mescalero Apache Tribe, and the State Land Office own the rest of the land.
Two of the U.S. Army’s largest bases, Fort Bliss and the White Sands Missile Range, are located here. Because of the Army’s work with rocketry here, the New Mexico Space Museum is located in the county seat of Alamogordo. In 1933, President Hoover created the White Sands National Monument, west of Alamogordo, to protect the gypsum sand dunes. The southernmost ski area in the United States is at Cloudcroft. Notable citizens of Otero County include astronomer Alan Hale; U.S. Senator Albert Fall; Governor Edwin Mechem, physicist Edward Condon, and actress Kim Stanley.