The Great River of the North – Rio Grande Gorge, NM

Picture postcard perfect. The stunning view from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Once upon a time, around 29 million years ago or so the earth moved. Two massive plates, the North American and Pacific scraped and opened up a rift in the earth. Colorado and New Mexico rose nearly 5,000 feet, volcanic eruptions and lava flows covered the earth and the Rio Grande began it’s life. From a trickle in the San Juan Mountains of CO to the gulf of Mexico the 1,896 miles (3,051 km) long river wound its way through the valleys to become the fourth or fifth longest in North America.

Playing on the banks of the Rio Grande

This interesting geological event created a spectacular gorge just West of Taos, NM which is where we’ve been secretly hanging out. Here is the rift that formed the river (rather than the other way around), and you can walk right over it at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the third highest in the US at 650 feet (200 m).  The fact that the valley came first is obvious once you’re here. Taos lies on a high desert plateau, practically flat apart from the surrounding mountains. From a few miles away there’s nothing to tell you the earth opens up in such a spectacular way, and the gaping jaws of the gorge surprise you as you get closer to the bridge.

"The Bus Stop" provides refreshments and local color at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

We’re camped right in the middle of it all, next to the grand river and surrounded by the beauty of the steep valley walls. Many feet have trodden here and the gorge repeats its history with hidden petroglyphs, hot springs (at Ojo Caliente) and massive remnants of volcanic rock. Wrapping it all in a great, big present is the spiritual play-area of Taos where outdoor enthusiasts combine with artists, history and native pueblos.

But…we’ll come back to that later For now, you may imagine pooch and us hiking the trails and splashing in the water. The weather is perfect (from what our neighbors tell us we just missed the one single week-end of rain of chill they had last week), cacti are starting to bloom, a breeze is fanning the RV and miles of open space are calling our name. That’s what we’re here for, after all.

The rift that formed a river. Another great view of the Gorge.

The top of the Picuris Trail. An old stock trail leading into the gorge.

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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. Nan says

    Hey Nina,
    Loving your blog.
    Where did you get the effect of the tape holding the photo in this blog?
    I like how that looks.

  2. MtnHam says

    When I view your photos in your posts, I often click on it to get a better view. I am always disappointed that I don’t get a bigger file (much larger image) for better viewing. Could you increase the file size?

    • libertatemamo says

      Hi Tom,
      You know it’s a tough call on the pic size. Unfortunately I’ve run
      into two big problems w/ my pics. The first is bandwidth
      (obviously the bigger the pic, the larger the space and
      bandwidth to upload/download). This is probably a minor problem.

      The bigger issue I have, belive it or not, has been
      piracy. Even though I put a copyright notice on each pic,
      and I try to keep the size reasonable (not too small, but not big
      enough to encourage too much piracy), I still get people stealing
      and using the pics for their own blogs, articles and other things
      without permission or copyright reference. I ran into another case
      just this week-end. I’m always astonished and bummed out by
      it, but there’s not too much I can do other than try to chase the pirates.
      So, for that reason I keep the pics ~600 pixel on the longest side.

      Really, really sorry…I do wish I could post bigger, but
      it probably means I’d be chasing too many pirates.

  3. Sandie Dixon says

    The pictures of the gorge are beautiful. And Tom – when I click on them they do get larger.

    • Mark says

      Tom, (assuming Nina & Paul approve) you can right-click on the pictures and save a copy to your computer which can be enlarged to your delight. Note that you may experience a decrease in detail with each magnification.

      • libertatemamo says

        I’m totally fine w/ that as long as people don’t re-use the pic as their own :)
        Feel free to download and enjoy!
        I DO wish I could post bigger, but unfortunately
        content piracy is a big issue these days.

  4. Barbara Pollock says

    I’ve been enjoying your beautifully written posts for a few months now. Your description of the Rio Grande Gorge & bridge is so true. I’ve been to northern NM twice now, and even driving up from Sante Fe along the river doesn’t prepare you for the gorge at the bridge. I didn’t know the geological facts but always wondered about the dark rock. It’s obviously lava! Thanks.

  5. jil mohr says

    piracy ….what a bummer…but you know what they say…imation is the best form of flattery….and your photos are really lovely…

  6. says

    Your gorge shot reminded me of the last time we were on that bridge staring down at the river. The bridge swayed ever so slightly and the next thing you know my buddy and I are clinging to the rail, not feeling too well and retreating to the car. Anyway, we love that part of the country. Every time we dare visit Santa Fe/Taos, we end up looking for property. Not good for mobile wannabes. =)

    • libertatemamo says

      Yeah, not sure what’s up. Seems the whole BLM website is down (even I’m hoping it’s temporary, but will check up on it over the next few days. We’re in Orilla Verde BLM area just south of Taos.

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