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

Spring Break is for Rafting too – 3/12/15

Spring Break is for Rafting too! Today, March 12, 2015, we had the Ellisons, from El Paso, doing the all-day Rio Grande Gorge trip, and they were joined by the Speights, from Virginia, for the Racecourse afternoon portion. The Speights, a Navy couple, received our military discount of 20% off. And, they informed us that they were on their honeymoon! They thought it was pretty cool that they could combine skiing and rafting on one vacation trip. In years past, we wouldn’t open New Wave for Spring Break, and I (along with Kathy) would be teaching skiing instead. This Spring Break Kathy is up at Taos Ski Valley while I run the New Wave office and drive shuttle. The high today was 65 deg. and balmy. The party spotted an otter on the Racecourse portion, in the afternoon.

One of the easy rapids on the Float portion of the full-day Rio Grande Gorge trip is called "S-turn"

One of the easy rapids on the Float portion of the full-day Rio Grande Gorge trip is called “S-turn”

The Speights, on the right, join the Ellisons in the afternoon.

The Speights, on the right, join the Ellisons in the afternoon. To the left is their guide, Sancho.

Heading down the Racecourse run

Heading down the Racecourse run

First Racecourse Trip of 2015

The first Racecourse Trip of 2015! For the first time in our history, we opened for Spring Break. This has been a warm winter, and today’s high temp was 64 degrees. The Rio Grande was at 600 cfs. and clear, without a breath of wind. While waiting for the arrival of the raft above Saddle Rock rapid, I spotted an otter, and got a photo (not a great one though). It was a drop-dead gorgeous day. Here’s the Consford family, from Keller TX. The trip was guided by “Sancho Panza” Wilson, who is now in her third year of guiding with New Wave, and this was her first solo trip. She did great! Congrats Sancho.

Put-inMar102015_4518

Upstream view towards the put-in

Upstream view towards the put-in

Otter, below Saddle Rock rapid

Otter, below Saddle Rock rapid

Herringbone rapid

Herringbone rapid

Herringbone rapid

Herringbone rapid

Final Drop rapid

Final Drop rapid

The Swinging Bridge

The Swinging Bridge

Below After Five riffle

Below After Five riffle

Sleeping Beauty rapid

Sleeping Beauty rapid

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Rio Grande Spring 2014

Spring is springing along the Rio Grande. The wintering bald eagles must have heard the predictions for an early Spring, because they up and left in the first half of March. The other winter residents – the golden-eye ducks – left shortly thereafter. The mallards and Canada geese appear to have become non-migratory year-round residents. Mergansers are now showing up, and I spotted a pied-billed grebe that I have not seen here before. I heard a peep behind me, and turned to see the bird swimming between myself and the shore. A day later, while standing on the shoreline, an otter popped up 30 feet away and went back under immediately, but we (myself and friend John Lopez) saw the otter swim across the river not far downstream. Yesterday I saw the first golden eagle, having seen a prairie falcon circling around the cliffs earlier. There is a fairly tame pair of western bluebirds now hanging out at the Rio Bravo CG in Orilla Verde, along with a downy woodpecker and other songbirds. I believe the bluebirds will soon continue to the north. Two days ago I saw the arrival of the first broad-tailed hummingbird, which caused me to run into the house and ready the feeders. Today a black-chinned hummingbird showed up at the feeders. Other songbirds now around are dark-eyed juncos, white-crowned sparrows, Say’s phoebes, yellow-rumped warblers,  canyon towhees, and I expect some grosbeaks and western tanagers soon:

Western bluebird along the Rio Grande river, near Taos, NM

Western bluebird

Yellow-rumped warbler, along the Rio Grande river, near Taos, NM

Yellow-rumped warbler

House Finch, along the Rio Grande river, near Taos, NM

House Finch

Dark-eyed junco, along the Rio Grande river, near Taos, NM

Dark-eyed junco

White-crowned sparrow, along the Rio Grande river, near Taos, NM

White-crowned sparrow

The water temp in the Rio Grande is now around 55 degrees, and mayflies and caddis flies are showing up – but not yet in sufficient numbers to constitute a “hatch” that brings trout to the surface, to feed in wild abandon. So, while I await such an event, I’ve had to resort to fishing nymphs. I’ve caught a few brown trout on a large, heavily-weighted olive Double-hackle peacock. Here’s a couple of those fish:

Hefty brown trout, from  the Rio Grande river, near Taos, NM

Hefty brown trout

 

Brown trout, from  the Rio Grande river, near Taos, NM

Brown trout

Otherwise, we start rafting on the 18th!!