The Bosque del Apache ("forest of the Apache") is a National Wildlife Refuge that straddles the Rio Grande in central New Mexico. My first question, when I read that the refuge is an arid wetland, was: Where does the water come from? Our Rio Grande is not so grande in these drought years, and seeing all that water is a rare and delightful experience for us desert dwellers. Here is the explanation from the Southwest Region Fish and Wildlife Service:
The heart of the Refuge is about 12,900 acres of moist bottomlands--3,800 acres are active floodplain of the Rio Grande and 9,100 acres are areas where water is diverted to create extensive wetlands, farmlands, and riparian forests.To visit the Bosque in the fall is a delight - the cottonwoods have turned a bright gold; the air is warm enough for shirtsleeves, yet cool in the shade; and there is water everywhere. That would be enough to make a wonderful outing, but the real point of going at this time of year is to see the Sandhill Cranes, Ross' Geese, and Snow Geese, as well as thousands of ducks and migratory birds.
As we drove in to the Refuge, this was our first breathtaking look at geese resting in the shallow water.
There were geese in the water and the sky for as far as the eye could see.
On the other side of the river, we came across small groups of Sandhill Cranes feeding in the water and in the fields. Crops of alfalfa and corn are planted in the refuge, then the alfalfa is harvested and the corn left for the birds.
We were just a week late for the best cottonwood color, but the trees were still lovely. That metal contraption in the foreground of the above photo is part of an irrigation gate on one of the ditches.
If you would like to see the amazing photo winners from the recent Festival of the Cranes photo contest, click here. To hear the incredible sound of thousands of geese "flying out" in the morning, check out this recording from the Friends of the Bosque.
For even more photos and news, you can friend "Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge" on Facebook. They have recent posts showing the rescue of some mule deer fawns from a water-filled ditch, and a trail camera shot of a mother mountain lion and her frolicking kitten.
At the new visitor center, you can buy CDs to play in your car for an audio tour of the refuge, or you can download the seasonal tours for free on this page, put them on your iPod and play them through your car speakers as you drive along.