The Rio Grande in Rocks

Just downstream of Taos Junction Rapid, on the Rio Grande of northern New Mexico, is a group of basalt rocks that, at high water, are vigorously washed by strong currents. The sediment carried by the high water sculpts and polishes these rocks. To my eye, the sculpting of the rocks model the river’s waves, while the polish on the rocks model the river’s gleam.

These basalt rocks are derived from the lava flows that the Rio Grande has cut through, in excavating the Rio Grande Gorge. Here, the river follows a very large systems of faults which, together, form the Rio Grande Rift. In New Mexico, this rift stretches north to south from the Colorado border, in the north, to the Texas border, in the south. It is these faults that spewed out the lava that covers much of this area. This north-central part of the state is now contained in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico, which makes us very proud. The Rio Grande Gorge is the centerpiece of the Monument, and it is neighbored by volcanic cones that stand above the flat lava-covered plateau, with herds of bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn antelope and deer that graze there. The gorge also provides nesting habitat for raptors such as the golden eagle and peregrine and prairie falcons, while a winter retreat for bald eagles. One will see beaver, muskrats and even otters in the river, along with plenty of waterfowl, including wintering flocks of canada geese, goldeneyes, buffleheads, widgeons and gadwalls. And one can catch brown and rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, northern pike and carp in the river.

Here are some of the critters mentioned above, all photographed along the Rio Grande.

Otter

Bald eagle

Mule deer

Coyote

Beaver

Bighorn sheep

What else? Well, of course, there is world-class whitewater available in the summer months, which includes the Taos Box run (and Taos Junction Rapid) that carries you 16 miles through the wilderness of the Rio Grande Gorge. Come visit us summer or winter!

Taos Box

First Taos Box trip of 2015

First Taos Box trip of 2015! Today, March 21, was Kathy’s birthday (Kathy Miller, Pres. of NWR ), and she wanted to run the Box. What a great idea! The forecast was for a high in the mid-60s and clear. This is the earliest we have ever run the Box, thanks to global warming. We were joined by NWR staff Britt, CJ, Joe, Adrien and trainee Michele. Britt and I were in an oar boat, and the others in a paddle boat. The river was running 1400 cfs, and the trip went off without a hitch, taking just a little over 3 hours. We had the river to ourselves, except for some wildlife, which included a group of bighorn sheep, canada geese, mergansers, green-winged teal, a redtail hawk, canyon wrens and a muskrat that dived under our boat. Mayflies were out, but it was still too early for the migratory songbirds.

The put-in, at John Dunn Bridge

The put-in, at John Dunn Bridge

Sculpted and polished basalt boulder

Sculpted and polished basalt boulder

Sculpted and polished basalt boulder, side view

Sculpted and polished basalt boulder, side view

The Rio Grande Gorge High Bridge

The Rio Grande Gorge High Bridge

Yellow Bank Rapid

Yellow Bank Rapid

60 Mile/Hr Rapid

60 Mile/Hr Rapid

The tight squeeze at the entry to Dead Car Rapid

The tight squeeze at the entry to Dead Car Rapid

Watch out for the big rock, in Dead Car Rapid

Watch out for the big rock, in Dead Car Rapid

The steep drop into Powerline Falls

The steep drop into Powerline Falls

Sharkfin Rock, in the Rock Garden Rapid

Sharkfin Rock, in the Rock Garden Rapid

Buzzsaw Rapid

Buzzsaw Rapid

Ugly Rock

Ugly Rock

 Screaming Left Turn Rapid

Screaming Left Turn Rapid

Mitch's Bitch rock in the Boulder Field section.

Mitch’s Bitch rock in the Boulder Field section.

Screaming Right Turn Rapid

Screaming Right Turn Rapid

Screaming Right Turn Rapid

Screaming Right Turn Rapid

 Sculpted basalt rock

Sculpted basalt rock

Taos Creek enters the Rio Grande at Taos Junction Rapid

Taos Creek enters the Rio Grande at Taos Junction Rapid