Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Time Off

Ute Mountain and the upper Rio Grande Gorge in the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument

At home in Rio Arriba

—Ty Belknap

The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument might be my favorite place for time off. In May, we went car camping for a couple days in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area of the monument right on the rim of the upper gorge, next to bike trails that thread through piñon forests and open spaces with colossal views of the mountains north of Taos. We hiked down to the confluence of the Red River then followed a trail along the Rio Grande that looped through ponderosa pines and back up to the rim. There are developed campsites for backpackers along the Rio where I plan to spend some of my dotage learning to fly fish.

On the way home, we spent a night in a friend’s teepee right on the river in Embudo, just below the southern part of the monument—Orilla Verde Recreation Area. Next day, we ran the Race Course in a commercial paddle raft with family and friends (a fun day trip available everyday when there is enough money and water).

While back working on the June Signpost, it rained! It snowed in the mountains, temporarily reviving the critically low spring runoff. Word came via email that some of my river friends were running the Taos Box. Even though the flow rate was still marginally low at 1,200 cubic feet per second, I jumped at a chance, which has been rare over the last several years of drought. This is, after all, one of the premier whitewater runs in the country.

I took my 12-foot inflatable raft and met three guys with kayaks and another rafter at the Taos Junction Bridge. We shuttled up around Taos to the John Dunn Bridge put-in. It was such a hoot, threading our way through the boulder fields that we decided to go again the following day, even though the flow rate was dropping fast. Some of us stayed with the boats, while others retrieved vehicles from the put-in.

Nearby, a dozen drunken teenagers were twerking to deafening rap music. When we complained, they told us to turn down our hearing aids. One of the girls lost her bikini top jumping off the bridge. When the campground host (who confessed that he had no authority whatsoever) threatened to call the cops, the teenagers cussed us out, jumped in their cars, and peeled out. They sent gravel flying our way and even fired off a few pistol shots in the air, leaving behind only the sound of the river and empty cans of fruit-flavored, caffeinated, alcoholic beverage.

It was a great night for camping. By morning, the river had dropped to less than one thousand cubic feet per second, which is lower than what is generally considered navigable, but my friends assured me we would be fine. And we were fine for the most part, other than the time I hit a rock and jammed my oar sideways into the oarlock, and got stuck temporarily in a keeper hole in Pinball Rapid.

Nobody was twerking at the takeout this time. It was beautiful there at the bridge, while rigging down in the sunset enjoying a few beverages in a responsible adult manner. Driving out of the gorge was a religious experience, topped off by a burrito to go from El Parisol in Pojoaque.

I was home by dark, down La Bajada hill through the psychic geological shift into Rio Abajo (lower river). For years I’ve yearned for a second home in Rio Arriba (upper river) without realizing that it was there all the time. It’s official since the 2013 presidential proclamation of Rio Grande del Norte National Monument—I have 250,000 acres of public land to call home.

Summer recreation in NM predicted to remain strong despite drought

—Lela Hunt

Recreational opportunities in New Mexico will continue this summer despite severe drought conditions and fire danger, which are predicted to continue throughout the state.

Conditions are right for adventure at your New Mexico State Parks. The 35 diverse state parks include diverse wonders—expanses of deserts and plains, mountains, streams, and historical sites. Family-friendly park settings are wonderful recreational resources for fishing, camping, kayaking, hiking, star gazing, and special events for all ages.

State Parks offers summer camps and programs, guided tours, bird watching, and wildlife viewing. Visit to plan a State Park adventure and reserve your favorite camping spot this year.

Should restrictions on state land  become necessary, the information about such restrictions will be announced on the Forestry Division web site:, in the “Wildfire Announcements” section.

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