Although I can just pick up a brochure for a self-guided walking tour of the old town, I choose to see it with Jared Chatterley, who wears 1850s garb on his "Legends by Lantern Light" walking tours. On the 90-minute expeditions down starlit streets, he shares tales of lynch mobs, range wars, and the abandoned town jail. Stepping inside the dank stone structure built in 1872, Chatterley points to a name and date scrawled on a cell wall. "This guy is the father of one of our townspeople, who also went to jail," he says. "Some things never change."
East of town, the land opens up into plains―most of it private ranchland. Nearly a decade ago, media mogul Ted Turner put a bison herd on his 588,000-acre Vermejo Park Ranch near Cimarron. Most days some of Turner's 2,500 bison can be seen from two-lane U.S. 64, which runs through the ranch. Driving northeast about 5 miles from Cimarron last fall, I spotted a herd of around 150 buffalo just 25 yards from the road, munching on short prairie grass and swishing their tails. I felt like I had stepped into a scene from Dances with Wolves.