The Upper Rio Grande Gorge starts at the Colorado border, extends along the river to below Taos and includes approximately 25 miles of the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River. Its dominant features are the 200-2600 foot width and 300-800 foot deep gorges carved gorges into the basalt lava flows. Landforms in the complex also include the forested higher elevations and vast shrub and grass-covered, rolling mesas. Elevations range from 7000 feet on the mesa scrublands to 9500. Pi?on/juniper woodlands cover the higher areas. On the high mesa are also numerous natural depressions with no natural outlets thus feeding the aquifers of the Rio Grande Watershed. These are crucial water sources in an otherwise arid environment. The area provides a diversity of habitats from riparian to the forests of the high mesas. Riparian vegetation lining the rivers include cottonwood, willow, boxelder, snowberry, mountain mahogany, golden currant, and gooseberry, as well as a variety of grasses. The canyon walls and high uplands contain conifer woodlands, blue spruce, white fir, ponderosa pine and pi?on pine, juniper and Douglas fir. These areas contain chipmunk, squirrel, beaver, porcupine, mule deer, elk, gray fox, coyote, badger, bear, bobcat, and mountain lion. Archaeological sites show human occupation of the area date back 7000 years.

Directions: The easiest access is from NM-378 which goes west from NM-522 about 4 miles north of Questa and takes you to the Wild Rivers National Recreation Area.

Ornithological Summary

The area is important for New Mexico threatened and endangered species and Partners in Flight priority species. The gorge supports a great diversity of passerine birds, including the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. Canyon walls provide habitat for hawks and eagles.

Breeding bird assemblages in the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River Recreation area, New Mexico; Stahlecker, D.W., et al. The SW Naturalist 34(4):487-498.

Conservation Issues

Recreational activities include rafting and fishing. Part of the Wild and Scenic River Program and as such should be protected from most conservation problems.?Some non-native invasive plant species occur along this area of the river.


Bureau of Land Management, Taos NM

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