The first ruins you reach are those at Quarai (505/847-2290, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily in summer, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily in winter, free), a pueblo inhabited from the 14th to the 17th century.
Like the other two Salinas pueblos, Abó and Gran Quivira, Quarai was a hardscrabble place with no natural source of water and very little food, though it did act as a trading outpost for salt, brought from small salt lakes farther east (hence the name).
When the Franciscans arrived, then, they put more than the usual strain on this community of 400 or so Tiwa-speakers; they nonetheless managed to build a grand sandstone-and-adobe mission, the most impressive of the ones at these three pueblos. In addition to a struggle with the local population, the priests found themselves at odds with the Spanish governors, who helped protect them but also undermined their conversion work by encouraging ceremonial dances. At the same time, raids by Apaches increased because any crop surplus no longer went to them in trade, but to the Spanish.
Oh, and there were terrible famines between 1663 and 1670. No wonder, then, that the place was abandoned even before the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Only the mission has been excavated; the surrounding hillocks are all pueblo structures.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition