Thursday, August 22, 2013


Rio Grande at Albuquerque
During Balloon Fielst
This week let’s get back to THE BISTI BUSINESS (Brown Martin Publishers). The last time we took a look at the book, our Investigator, BJ Vinson, was looking for two young graduate students touring the state in an orange Porsche Boxter. Let’s pick up the action on Page on Page 30 in Chapter 5. I picked this scene because it gives us a glimpse of the amazing changes that take place in the Rio Grande between Albuquerque and Taos, and what better way to see it than from the air. The Jim who is speaking to BJ is the pilot of the chartered Cessna.


We encountered turbulence as the little plane lifted off from the Double Eagle Airport on the west side of town and headed straight up the Rio Grande. The browns and reds and grays of the desert terrain turned a monotonous dun as we gained altitude, broken only by darker wrinkles of dry washes known as arroyos, the double black ribbons of Interstate-25, and the dull sheen of the river—itself somewhat brown. The Rio is classified as a “dirty river,” meaning it carries high concentrations of silt on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. The green-shrouded slopes of the Jemez Mountains to the west provided a splash of color, as did the Sangre de Cristos to the north.
With a maximum range of 470 nautical miles plus a thirty-minute reserve fuel supply, the Cessna would not need to set down before reaching our destination. Taos is a 132-mile trip by car, and at a cruising speed of 129 mph, we would arrive in something under an hour.
“Quite a view, huh?” Jim asked. “I never get tired of it.”
Feeling a kinship with a soaring eagle, I took in the panorama. “Is that weather off to the west going to cause us any heartburn?” Bright bolts of lightning strobed the black sky on the distant horizon.
“I checked before we lifted off. It’s moving north-northeast, so I doubt we’ll be bothered.”
“Feel free to put down somewhere if we are.” I glanced down at the river again. “It’s really amazing how the Rio Grande changes character. Around Albuquerque, it roams around in a broad channel made for a bigger river.”
“You can blame that on the dams,” Jim observed. “When the Rio Grande was declared a wild Bosque are paying the price. They’re both slowly dying.” The Bosque was a two hundred-mile swath of cottonwood forest lining both banks of the Rio.
Rio Grande Near Taos
and scenic river, it flooded regularly. Then they put in all the dams. The way I look at it, they put an end to the flooding all right, but the river and the
Above Santa Fe, the water flowing beneath the plane picked up energy, shimmering in the sunlight as it rushed over rocks on its fall from the high country. The farther north we traveled; the wilder the river became. Soon it was white-water rafting country. A few miles below Taos, the true might and determination of the river become apparent as it raced down long boulder gardens to spill out of the black volcanic canyons of the Taos Box. From above, the river appeared to sink, but in reality, the terrain rose on its climb north toward Colorado.
Over the eons, gravity and friction and the sheer power of water molecules had carved a deep crevasse through the hard basalt of the Taos Plateau. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge spanned that spectacular canyon ten miles west-northwest of Taos. We circled over the awesome, 500-foot cantilevered steel and concrete marvel of modern engineering as we lined up for a landing at the town’s small strip.


I hope you enjoyed the tour. If you haven’t caught on yet…I love my adopted state. New Mexico is truly The Land of Enchantment.

Next week: Soaring over the Rio Grande Gorge

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