Rio Grande Gorge
Good news! A handful of places have recently been named as new national monuments, including the stunning Rio Grande del Norte region. Spanning 240,000 acres in northern New Mexico, this area now protects the Rio Grande River, which provides water to downstream communities. Ute Mountain towers over the region, providing critical habitat for elk, bald eagles, peregrine falcons and great horned owls. And Americans like you have another place they can count on for wild adventures.
But there's more to boast. A recent survey found that 84 percent of New Mexico voters agree that public lands are an essential part of the state’s economy, and an economic study found that a national monument designation for Rio Grande del Norte is estimated to fuel $15 million in new economic benefits like boosting tourism.
That's because the beauty of the area attracts many visitors seeking unique recreational opportunities. Here are some fun activities this special place offers that you might consider enjoying in the near future:
Due to intense rapids, rafting here requires superior whitewater skills as well as a permit, which can be obtained at the Visitor Center or Little Arsenic Trailhead before launching. There are several segments to enjoy by boat, but swimming is not recommended.
Photo: Rafting in Wild Rivers Area. Credit: flickr, BLM New Mexico.
2. Mountain biking
Mountain bike trails in the area include the Rinconada Loop Trail, Red River Fault Trail, and Guadalupe Mountain Trail. Be sure to stay on paths and yield to hikers.
Rio Grande anglers may catch northern pike, native brown and German brown trout, while the nearby Red River is stocked with rainbow trout. Be advised that you must have a license and follow local regulations.
Photo: Wild Rivers Area. Credit: flickr, BLM New Mexico.
The area has various trails to choose from, including La Junta with views of the confluence of Red River and Rio Grande, the Big Arsenic with cold-water springs and petroglyphs, the Little Arsenic Springs with access to the river and Guadalupe Mountain with tall pines, wildflowers, and cooler temperatures. Visit the Rio Grande Gorge Visitor's Guide to learn more.
Photo: Hiking in snow. Credit: flickr, BLM New Mexico.
The Wild Rivers Area has five developed campgrounds, and there are 22 developed campsites along the Gorge Rim. Additionally, four trails lead to 16 hike-in river campsites.
6. Scenic driving
The 13-mile, paved Wild Rivers Backcountry Byway winds its way along the rim of the Rio Grande gorge, offering the most dramatic overlooks in the state like La Junta Point.
Photo: La Junta Point. Credit: flickr, aspidoscelis.
7. Wildlife viewing
Those that are looking for wild creatures may spy mule deer, red-tailed hawks, mountain blue-birds, prairie dogs, elk, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, great horned owls or river otters.
Photo: River otter. Credit: flickr, BLM New Mexico.
Below is a map of the area (courtesy of New Mexico Wilderness Alliance):