Into the Gorge: Where the Red Meets the Rio Grande

At the confluence of the Red (left) and Rio Grande (right) Rivers

At the confluence of the Red (left) and Rio Grande (right) Rivers

On my way from Hermit Peak to the Rio Grande Gorge, I got crunched between the Land Rover and the Teardrop. Ouch. After a few days taking it easy on the long, flat roads that crisscross the east rim of the Gorge, I was ready to plunge headlong into that deep, dark river canyon.

The confluence from the La Junta Point overlook

The confluence of the Red and Rio Grande from the La Junta Point overlook

The Rio Grande River runs at the bottom of a 800 foot deep geologic rift that cuts down through the layers of black basalt that underlie north-central New Mexico. On the surface, the high desert is a sagebrush sea, cross hatched by dusty roads and antelope paths. But switchback down one of the steep footpaths that drop into the gorge and you’ll find a surprising green riverine paradise.

Big Ponderosas along the Rio Grande

Big Ponderosas along the Rio Grande

The Rio Grande Gorge runs for 50 miles, from the Colorado/ New Mexico border to just south of Taos. My favorite access point is the Wild Rivers Area of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument near Questa. This little-visited gem was just made a national monument last year but the crowds have yet to descend. I camped here on Memorial Day weekend and once I dropped below the rim, I had the place all to myself.

Big Ponderosas along the Rio Grande

Big Ponderosas along the Rio Grande

Dogs hate metal steps like these. Bowie's tackled them elsewhere and he went right down, but Dio threw a fit.

Dogs hate metal steps like these. Bowie’s tackled them elsewhere and he went right down, but Dio threw a fit.

Poor Dio really, really, really hated these stairs. Bowie went up and down them a few times, showing his little brother than he wouldn't fall through. I let him figure it out and he eventually followed us.

Poor Dio really, really, really hated these stairs. Bowie went up and down them a few times, showing his little brother than he wouldn’t fall through. I let him figure it out and he eventually followed us.

La Junta Trail Junction

La Junta Trail Junction

Camping shelter along the Rio Grande. Holiday weekend. Nobody here!

Camping shelter along the Rio Grande. Holiday weekend. Nobody here!

ffff

Riverside Shelter Rules . These are free, no permits required.

Rio Grande Dogs

Rio Grande Dogs. After a few days on the hot, dusty rim, these boys were ready for a swim!

Rio Grande Self Portrait

Rio Grande Self Portrait

Rio Grande D.O.G.

Rio Grande D.O.G.

At the Confluence. See the demarkation between the two rivers?

At the Confluence

Washed out bridge over the Red River, no longer connecting to the Cebola Mesa trail.

Washed out bridge over the Red River, no longer connecting to the Cebola Mesa trail.

Om mani padme hum blessing in Sanskrit, carved in a boulder along the Rio Grande. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om_mani_padme_hum

Om mani padme hum blessing in Sanskrit, carved in a boulder along the Rio Grande. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Om_mani_padme_hum

Opferkessels & Caterpillar

Opferkessels & Caterpillar

Looking up the Red River with La Junta Point above.

Looking up the Red River with La Junta Point above.

Bowie, my 11 year old trail dog extraordinaire, looking rightly proud of himself for having just climbed that ladder!

Bowie, my 11 year old trail dog extraordinaire, looking rightly proud of himself for having just climbed that ladder!

 

Back on top. I also hiked a a 4-mile loop down Little Arsenic Springs and back to this point.

Back on top. I also hiked a a 4-mile loop down Little Arsenic Springs and back to this point.

Love river confluences? Check out my post on hiking to the meeting place of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River. Up next: a journey back in time in the Valle Vidal!

 

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently traveling the backroads from New Mexico to Alaska, writing and living out of a tiny Teardrop camper. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
This entry was posted in Bowie & D.O.G., Hiking!, New Mexico, Photography, Road tripping!, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Into the Gorge: Where the Red Meets the Rio Grande

  1. wow!!The pics are wonderful!

  2. Another great post, Blonde Coyote. Happy travels. Love the Teardrop. On the matter of naming places, Arsenic Springs seems quite a complement to Atomic City, Idaho (my recent piece at susanoliverweb.com). Maybe our paths will cross one of these days . . . somewhere on a trail.

  3. hobopals says:

    Traveling with pups is great, isn’t it? Jack and Lizzie were the best companions I could have when I traveled. Then, Jack on our 6 month out west was the best company in the whole world. Dio and Bowie had a very adventurous day! Bowie really climbed that ladder? Wow.

  4. Kevin McCue says:

    We’re headed here in about two weeks and we’re hoping to find it as you did, not crowded. Not pulling a teardrop this time but our very own Quicksilver 6.0 (half a popup). Happy trails!

  5. Pingback: Across the Valle Vidal | Travels with the Blonde Coyote

  6. So fun to see where you’ve been so we can find some new places to hike. This looks like a good one. We might be road tripping to New Mexico this fall depending on how things go up here in Idaho. Happy journeys to you. Carol

  7. Hi Mary! My cousin, Barb at http://egghillphotos.com/ pointed out your opferkessels to me. We’d been told a tall tale by an Apache Indian about these stone depressions – http://whichwaynow101.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/truth-or-fiction/ and now I know better!

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