The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989


Lalo Boating

“Lalo” strains to join Mike in his ocean kayak at the Algodones spillway on the Rio Grande.

Bosque time

—Ty Belknap
Fall colors remain in the Rio Grande bosque for another month after all the leaves have fallen from the aspen trees on Sandia Mountain. It’s one of the best times to hike, bike, and go boating in our nearby playground, and one of the many places within an hour’s drive of home where I like to recreate.

Last month my friend Mike in his ocean kayak and I in my solo canoe paddled from Algodones to Bernalillo. I’ve floated this stretch several times over the years, but this was the first time for my dog Lalo—and probably his last. (Thank-you to our readers who expressed concern about Lalo’s rattlesnake bite. He has since been bumped by a car, but luckily his hard head took most of the blow. I bought him a health-insurance policy.)

To get to the river put-in, we took NM 313 to just south of Algodones and turned onto the north side of the bridge over the Las Huertas Wash. A gravel road leads to to the Angustura dam and irrigation diversion. This is a spectacular place, highlighted by the spillway, that is popular with locals for fishing, picnicking, and/or drinking beer.

Lalo disappeared when we let him out of the truck and unloaded the boats. We found him swimming in the concrete irrigation channel. Although I have practiced kayaking in this ditch, it is contraindicated because of the danger of entrapment in the downstream grating. Lalo refused to get out, so I had to get in with a rope and Mike dragged us both out.

Then it was time to find out that it is a mistake to travel with an excited eighty-pound retriever in a thirty-five-pound canoe. Since Lalo couldn’t decide between in and out, I paddled ahead while he exhausted himself running and swimming to catch up.
It’s easy paddling (unless you have a big dog shivering between your legs) through open spaces and bosque, and past the confluence with the Jemez River, Snakehead Mountain, and the manicured trails of the Hyatt Tamaya. Lalo settled down, except when we passed a blue heron or flock of geese. The canoe only capsized once.

We took out at the US 550 bridge, where our shuttle vehicle was parked next to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District gate and No Trespassing sign. An MRGCD official told me later that the signs are there to keep out vehicles, illegal dumping, gangs, homeless people, and paintballers. It’s okay to walk in and explore either side of the bridge—as long as you don’t fit any of these categories.

The bosque and ditch banks add immeasurably to the quality of life along the Rio Grande. There is a plan in the works to extend a paved trail from Bernalillo all the way to Belen. Much of the bosque in Bernalillo County is designated Rio Grande Valley State Park.

Now you can take a bike on the Rail Runner and ride to the trail system or North Valley ditch banks from the Journal Center. Go ahead and walk or ride past the MRGCD No Trespassing signs, because they’re not enforced as long as you behave yourself. MRGCD is looking into developing formal trails through these miles of urban wilderness.

MRGCD’s June newsletter invited readers to imagine “a network of cool, green, shaded, safe, peaceful pathways that connects neighborhoods to local schools, businesses and open spaces. A place where kids can frolic and daydream, adults can unwind in tranquil solitude, and friends and neighbors can meet, walk, run, bicycle, jog and enjoy the wild beauty of the great outdoors.” It’s been kind of like that for a long time, but it’s nice that they are making it official and offering something to the public besides the Ditches are Deadly campaign.

The dogs and I were down at the Bernalillo bosque again the other day to enjoy another perfect fall day—blue sky, yellow cottonwood, sandhill cranes, and the river that makes all the difference between living here and just living in a desert.






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