New Mexico July 12, 2016
New Mexico Has A Grand Canyon And It’s Too Beautiful For Words
As you drive the 12 miles from Taos toward the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the landscape gives little indication of what’s hidden below. You’d never guess that you’re approaching one of New Mexico’s natural wonders.
The Rio Grande Gorge is approximately 50 miles in length. While it is 200 feet deep near the border, the gorge plunges down 800 feet, farther to the south. It's New Mexico's answer to the Grand Canyon.
This portion of New Mexico was once covered by gravel and lava from erupting volcanoes. Over many years, erosion by the Rio Grande forged the gorge.
The Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument was established in 2013. This huge monument encompasses 310,528 acres that extends from the Colorado border down to Pilar, south of Taos.
There are only three bridges crossing the gorge within the monument. One of these, the John Dunn Bridge, is a key launch point for kayakers and rafters.
Experiencing the gorge from below is certainly different than viewing it from above. There are several rafting outfitters that can take you along the river.
If you’d like to go kayaking on your own, bear in mind that this area has some very challenging rapids. There are no boating fees, but the BLM requires you to register your trip before attempting the tougher runs.
If rafting doesn't appeal, a short walk from the John Dunn Bridge takes you to Black Rock Hot Springs. There, you can soak in a primitive pool adjacent to the river.
The Wild Rivers Recreation Area is a part of the national monument that’s definitely worth visiting. The 13-mile long Wild Rivers Backcountry Byway is an easy way to admire the scenery – stop at La Junta Point for some unbeatable views. Wild Rivers also offers 40 campsites spread across five campgrounds for those planning a longer visit. Alternatively, head to one of the seven campgrounds in Orilla Verde Recreation Area.
This national monument is on a significant bird migration path and herds of elk roam across the land.
Hiking, biking, and fishing are popular activities. The views from the West Rim Trail are especially memorable (you don't have to do the whole nine miles)! The trailhead is located on the west side of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
This steel bridge outside Taos is 1,280 feet across and it stands 565 feet above the Rio Grande. This makes it the seventh tallest bridge in the country.
Construction on this bridge began in 1963. At that time, funding hadn’t been secured to continue the road on the other side. For a while, this structure was dubbed “The Bridge to Nowhere."
But the project was successfully completed in 1965.
This is a great, accessible spot from which to admire the gorge - no hiking required.
Taos is the town nearest to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Should you choose to extend your stay, you’ll find plenty of
things to do in this area.
This monument is massive. To grasp its full scale, check out this aerial video. As you can see, the gorge is stunning in all seasons.
Have you visited this natural wonder in New Mexico? Few places can compete with the actual Grand Canyon, but the Rio Grande Gorge comes pretty close.