Memories of the Rio Grande Nature Center

Western Screech-Owl - Otus kennicottii

Albuquerque is the largest population center in New Mexico. This town rests in the Rio Grande River Valley, a stream whose headwaters are in the highlands of central Colorado on the eastern slopes of Canby Mountain on the Continental Divide. Between 1900 and 1973, 22 dams have been constructed along the Rio Grande. Most of the dams are upstream from Albuquerque, so much of the year the water in the river is very low. Yet woodlands along its course (called “bosques”) provide habitat for wildlife.

Built within a 270 acre state park, and surrounded by the urban sprawl of northern Albuquerque, the Rio Grande Nature Center shelters 38 acres of one such bosque. I am by-no-means an expert on this place, but can say each of my three visits here have been rewarding. Some of the trails through its grounds are closed to the public, but I believe morning walks are regularly scheduled for guided tours through these restricted areas. I had the pleasure of attending one of these walks, where I met my first Eastern Bluebirds.

The park has replicated some of the prior flood-plain habitat in the valley before the water was diverted by the dams upstream. Besides the wooded bosque, several large ponds have been established and open grassy fields mimic the wild habitat of former times. Over 300 bird species have been recorded here, as well as mammal species such as weasels, otters and porcupines. Reptiles, amphibians and insects and other invertebrates live here, including 40 species of dragonflies.

I look forward to my next visit to this little slice of heaven.

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