Fox Cave

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Photo by Todd Fuqua Fox Cave as it looks today. Notice the signage, sculptures and other eye-catching visuals deployed in an attempt to get travelers to slow down and check out the attraction now that the highway has been shifted south.

Fox Cave: Historical Landmark Gets More Interesting

Ever notice that literal hole-in-the-wall place in the Hondo Valley along Highway 70 called Fox Cave? You know, the one that has those giant, disembodied hands and a big cowboy and a dinosaur head and a crashed UFO and….

Seriously? You don’t know what I’m talking about? It’s Fox Cave, and it’s one of three unique and diverse businesses owned by Arnold Duke, a gemologist from back east.

Duke, who first came to New Mexico as a student at New Mexico State University many years ago, found

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Photo by Todd Fuqua A gem mine at both the Ruidoso Trading Post and Fox Cave gives youngsters a taste of prospecting for rare items.

the tall cool pines of Ruidoso a refreshing retreat from the desert heat of Las Cruces. “I couldn’t believe how hot it was there, so I would come up to Ruidoso on weekends and fell in love with the place,” Duke said. “I bought a little teeny cabin and have been coming here ever since.”

For more than 40 years, he’s continued to visit, and he finally decided to purchase what would become the Ruidoso River Museum about a decade ago. The real catalyst to that purchase was a rare badge worn by former Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett, which inspired Duke to start a museum/rock/gift shop. “That badge put me on the map,” Duke said. “I started collecting documents from the Lincoln County War back in the 70s and 80s, but I could never find or afford any expensive pieces. When that badge came up for sale, I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

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Photo by Todd Fuqua Fox Cave owner Arnold Duke enters the Native American room at Fox Cave. There are six rooms – each with a different theme – located on the grounds.

Since then, he’s expanded his business to include the Ruidoso Trading Post in Midtown and, yes, Fox Cave. In fact, he’s working to move as many operations as he can into the valley. That includes turning former motel cabins on the property into museum exhibits with specific themes. There’s a Lincoln County War room (complete with the valuable Pat Garrett badge), a Hollywood memorabilia room, a Native American room, a dinosaur room and even an alien room.

Furthermore, the team is working on an escape room, a peculiar phenomenon that has people across the world volunteering freedom for a chance to solve puzzles and “escape” from their confinement. Several clues and puzzles are hidden throughout the building, with each solved puzzle leading to another mental challenge.

There’s even a website – – where amateur sleuths can test their brainpower in an escape from the “Lincoln County jail.” “Escape rooms are really popular all over the United States. There’s only one in New Mexico, in Albuquerque, and now we’ll have the second one,” Duke said. “It’s a one-hour adventure for you and your friends. It’s a good team-building exercise to find and use all the clues to get out in an hour.”

Fox Cave has a long history, serving as a hideout to the actual Billy the Kid and Geronimo, among

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Photo by Todd Fuqua Sabrina Schiele hangs turqouise in the Ruidoso Trading Post. These beads can be used to make all kinds of jewelry, and there’s stones of every color available.

others. Later, it was a gift shop and motel, although business took an immediate turn south once the courses of both Highway 70 and the Rio Ruidoso were moved just a little further south.

By the time Duke got a hold of it, there was a lot of cleanup and work to do.
Now, the place is spruced up and keeps on changing, which is just how Duke likes it. He’s always looking for new ways to bring people in. “We’re doing everything we can to get people’s attention as they speed past, because we have a beautiful and interesting place,” Duke said. “It’s open seven days a week, it’s free to come in, and it’s something everyone should see.”

—Todd Fuqua