If you’ve been around our blog for a bit you will notice that our specialty is sharing National Park Service sites with our family, and in turn with yours. We spend many days and nights each year submersed in the National Park Service system. This includes National Monuments, Bureau of Land Management sites, refuges, National Historical Sites, National Lakeshores, and more.
In addition to the twelve National Parks we visited for the 2016 NPS Centennial celebration, we also stopped at six non-park locations: Jewel Cave N.M., Agate Fossil Beds N.M., White Sands N.M., Sleeping Bear Dunes N.L., Scott’s Bluff N.M., and Rio Grande del Norte N.M.
Of these sites, the one we wished we had more time to spend at would be Rio Grande del Norte. We encountered this National Monument by chance, as it lay along our route from Great Sand Dunes NP&P to Carlsbad Caverns N.P. Had we known that this monument was going to be under review, we definitely would have designated a whole day to explore it.
As we drove through the western portion of Rio Grande del Norte, we saw wide expanses of sagebrush plains that stretch between the Rio San Antonio Gorge to the west and the Rio Grande Gorge to the east. There are many ancient volcanic cones dotting the landscape that break up the Taos Plateau and provide a beautiful backdrop for photography.
Protection is Imperative
Within both of these canyons lie petroglyphs and artifacts that date back thousands of years. They represent many different early tribes that passed through these areas. Wildlife such as Rocky Mountain elk, bald eagles, owls, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep can be seeing dotting the plateau. On our trip through we spotted several large hawks, pronghorn, and loggerhead shrikes. We also found out after doing more research on this monument that the Rio Grande Gorge is a major waterfowl migration route that should be protected for the hundreds of species that rely on the water and its abundant ecosystem for survival.
Worthy of a Stop
This national monument is on our short “must return soon” list, and it should be a stop for anyone passing through northern New Mexico. You won’t find cell phone service for hundreds of miles
along Highway 285. We were just fine with that, as it gave us more time to spot wildlife, talk about the extinct volcanoes, and enjoy the warm, sunny day we had there.
Perhaps one of the most significant reasons we feel this monument should be protected, is that it sits along the Rio Grande Rift. Fracking and other mining activity have the potential for making this rift more active.
There is no other explanation that we feel is more thorough and on point about protecting this national monument than the declaration by former President Obama, whose proclamation can be seen here:
We invite you to go and explore this vast and diverse landscape. See for yourself the importance of protecting the geology, archaeology, and habitat of this monument. Have you been to Rio Grande del Norte? Tell us in the comments about your favorite moments there, so others can look forward to visiting! And be sure to check out what our fellow outdoor bloggers are saying about some of their favorite monuments today as well: