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Date of visit:
February 10, 2000

For location of this site in NM, click on the map:
 Location of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge ...
 

We rate this site a:

Site Highlights:
 Few visitors
 Modest entry fee
 Off the beaten track
 Friendly visitor center
 Great picnic areas
 Variety of waterfowl
 Huge flocks of geese
 Sandhill cranes galore
 Bring binoculars
 Stay till dusk
 Experience a flyover

 Kachina US Fish & Wildlife Service

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Bosque del Apache NWR
Snow geese
Snow geese

Sandhill crane in flight

Sandhill crane in flight

Canada geese

Canade geese

Snow geese in flight

Snow geese in flight

Introduction

Bosque del Apache means "woods of the Apache," named for the Apaches that routinely camped in the riverside forest. Today, Bosque del Apache is known as one of the most spectacular refuges in North America.

Each autumn, tens of thousands of birds including sandhill cranes, Arctic geese and ducks-make the refuge their winter home. The air is filled with the honking of geese and the guttural call of cranes. Flocks of snow geese lift off from their feeding grounds when frightened by a stalking coyote or eagle.

At dusk, flights of geese and cranes return to roost in the marshes or on the Rio Grande. In the summer, Bosque del Apache, though quiet, remains an oasis in the surrounding and lands.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1939 to provide "a refuge and breeding grounds for migratory birds and other wildlife" and to develop wintering grounds for greater sandhill cranes, which were then endangered.

Located on the northern edge of the Chihuahuan desert, the refuge straddles the Rio Grande approximately twenty miles south of Socorro, New Mexico. The heart of the refuge is 7,000 acres of flood plain where the waters of the Rio Grande have been diverted to create extensive wetlands and farmlands. The rest of the refuge is made up of arid foothills and mesas, which rise to the Chupadera Mountains to the west and to the San Pascual Mountains to the east. Most of these and lands are preserved in three wilderness areas.

Managing for Wildlife

To provide food, water, shelter, and space for wildlife, several management techniques are used at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Local farmers grow crops on the refuge for wintering waterfowl and cranes.

Farmers plant alfalfa and corn, harvesting the alfalfa and leaving the corn for wildlife. The refuge staff also grows corn, winter wheat, clover, and native plants as additional food.

Many of the water management activities on the refuge imitate the ebb and flow of the Rio Grande before channelization and dams. The ancient liver, influenced by snowfall in the Rocky Mountains and summer monsoons, periodically flooded and replenished natural marshlands that occurred along the river. Today, many of those marshes have been lost and the river no longer meanders. Water levels in marshes are manipulated in order to create moist fields that promote growth of native marsh plants. Marsh management is rotated so that varied habitats is always available. Dry impoundments are disked or burned, then reflooded, to allow natural marsh plants to grow. When mature marsh conditions are reached, the cycle is repeated.

Many kinds of wildlife food are grown this way including smartweed, millet, chufa, bulrush, and sedges. Many cottonwood and willow bosques that once lined the Rio Grande have been lost to human development. Salt cedar, or "tamarisk," originally introduced as an ornamental plant and for erosion control, has taken over vast areas of the refuge. In order to restore native bosques that have higher value for wildlife, salt cedar is being cleared and many areas are being planted with cottonwood, black willow, shrubs, and other understory plants.

Watching Wildlife
Each season at Bosque del Apache NWR offers unique wildlife viewing opportunities. Peak visitation occurs in winter, when cranes, bald eagles, and snow geese are present. During the spring and fall, visitors can see migrant warblers, flycatchers, and shorebirds. The summer months are a good time to see nesting songbirds, waders, shorebirds, and ducks. Some year-round residents include mule deer, coyote, porcupine, muskrat, turkey, quail, pheasant, and roadrunner. Kestrel in tree
Kestrel in tree
 
Cultural History

Bosque del Apache has been inhabited for centuries. Over 700 years ago, Piro Indians came to the valley for its fertile soil with abundant plant and animal life. These pueblo dwellers farmed, raised turkeys, gathered wild fruit, and hunted wildlife. They left evidence in their rock art of the animals with whom they shared this land. European diseases and Apache raids forced the Piro to abandon their pueblos in the 1600s. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the few remaining Piro fled to El Paso with the Spanish. The Piro never returned to their native land, and their villages fell into ruin.

Late in the 16th century, Spanish explorers and colonists, on their way north from Mexico, established "El Camino Real," or "The Royal Road." This road served as a vital trade avenue between Mexico and Santa Fe for almost 300 years. Remnants of the Camino Real and the Piro occupation are protected within the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

Tour Route

The 15-mile auto tour loop allows visitors to enjoy wildlife viewing and photography. Wildlife is accustomed to visitors and may be closely observed from vehicles, which serve as photo blinds.

Wilderness Areas

Bosque del Apache NWR has approximately 30,000 acres of wilderness. The Chupadera, Indian Well and Little San Pascual wilderness areas are made up of Chihuahuan desert habitat with no available water.

 
Site Gallery
 
 A Bosque visitor  Taking flight  A place to roost
 Sandhill cranes in field  Sandhill cranes on the lookout The Bosque -
a national treasure
 
 
Birds of the Bosque
Birds commonly seen year-round
 
American Coot
American Coot
Fulica americana
Neotropic Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant
Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane
Grus canadensis
 
Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Snow Goose
Snow Goose
Chen caerulescens
Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier
Circus cyaneus
 
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Buteo jamaicensis
Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Ardea herodias
American Kestrel
American Kestrel
Falco sparverius
 
Mallard
Mallard
Anas platrhynchos
Northern Pintail
Northern Pintail
Anas acuta
Gambel's Quail
Gambel's Quail
Callipepla gambelli
 
Northern Shoveler
Northern Shoveler
Anas clypeata
White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Zonotrichia leucophrys
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Agelaius phoeniceus
 
 
For More Information
National Wildlife Refuges - Southwest Region (Home Page)
National Wildlife Refuge - Southwest Region
Bosque del Apache NWR
Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

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