Socorro County is a county in the U.S. state of New Mexico. As of the 2010 census, the population was 17,866. The county seat is Socorro. The county was formed in 1852 as one of the original nine counties of New Mexico Territory. Socorro was originally the name given to a Native American village (see: Puebloan peoples) by Don Juan de Oñate in 1598. Having received vitally needed food and assistance from the native population, Oñate named the pueblo Socorro ("succor" in English).
Socorro County is home to multiple scientific research institutions including New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and its associated Very Large Array, the Magdalena Ridge Observatory, and the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research. Federal public lands in Socorro County include parts of the Cibola National Forest, the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Socorro Field Office, parts of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, and parts of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 6,649 square miles (17,220 km²), of which 6,647 square miles (17,220 km²) is land and 2.1 square miles (5.4 km²) (0.03%) is water. It is the second-largest county in New Mexico by area, after Catron County, New Mexico.
Socorro County ranges in elevation from approximately 4,528 ft (1,380 m) on the banks of the Rio Grande to 10,784 ft (3,287 m) at the top of South Baldy peak in the Magdalena Mountains. The southern portion of the Rocky Mountains extend into New Mexico and Socorro County. There are several mountain ranges that spread throughout the county. The Forest Service manages portions of four mountain ranges: the Bear, Datil, Magdalena, and San Mateo Mountains. Most of the land that comprises these mountains are within the Cibola National Forest. These ranges, as well as Ladron Peak located in Socorro County, are classified as sky islands.
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