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