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NM: Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Unlike National Parks, most national wildlife refuges never close – ever. After all, birds and animals neither follow calendars nor take holidays. Sure, there might be no park services available, but the trails are still teaming with wildlife. That’s why, on my 1st day in New Mexico, I drove straight to Bosque del Apache on route to White Sands – not because it is famous, but because I have nothing better to do on Christmas Day. I passed the much larger Sevilleta wildlife refuge on the way down I-25, but decided not to stop there because I didn’t need a break then. Pro-tip here, Owl Cafe in San Antonio, located at the north exit on I-25 to Bosque del Apache, is known to have really good burgers. I was there on both a Sunday and Christmas, so didn’t have the luxury to try them out. [Bosque del Apache means woods of the Apache people]

This national wildlife refuge was huge and great for hikers. There were plenty of trails, including some in the park proper. I should have spent more time here had I planned better, but with the little time I had, went straight to check out the “amazing” wildlife offering of New Mexico. I came to New Mexico expecting nothing more than rattlesnakes, so it was still kind of mind blowing that there were wildlife refuges here. As I entered the park, the path splits into two car accessible loops in the park, and I started with the North loop.

Straight off from the fee booth, I spotted a huge lake. That itself could have been the main highlight considering that I was in the middle of a really really large desert. Strangely enough, there was a white line on the lake. Initially, I thought those were either some kind of floating devices or formation of some kind of bubble; on closer inspections, those were actually birds. I had to bring out my 50x camera to identify the species, and they looked like snow geese. That’s probably the largest fleet I had ever set eyes on, and I can’t image the spectacle when they lift off to go somewhere else more fun than New Mexico.

One of the many lakes.

Sandhill cranes feasting.
Snow Geese.
I believe this is a canal for overflow from the lakes.

There were plenty of observation decks around the loop, but even the higher vantage points don’t seem to offer much more from what I can see on the side of the road. The north loop was pretty long, with more lakes dotted along the roads and opportunity to spot more birds. These lakes were surrounded by many marshy areas, with flocks of Sandhill crane hanging around (I assumed probably) eating late worms – it was high noon by then. I don’t think there were any fish in the rather dry marshes but I could be totally wrong. What do I know, as the wildlife continue to amaze me here. With the Chuapadera peak in the background, these birds were definitely enjoying their incredible views. Apparently, Bosque Del Apache is a prime location to spot these Sandhill cranes.

Chupadera Mountain behind marshy areas.

I did not finish the south loop, but it seemed to be similar to the north loop. There was a boardwalk built on another marshy area, but the only birds I saw were ducks, and they swam as fast as they could from me as I approaches them. The Rio Grande river ran parallel to the park, but it looked pitiful compared to its awe-inspiring name. The landscape from Albuquerque to Las Cruses consisted only sandy desert sprinkled some brown mountain peaks, so finding birds among large crystal clear lakes and greenery was astonishing. Bosque Del Apache was like an oasis – you know what, this was an oasis. Birds are cool, but I would not be disappointed had I not seen any birds as the views of the surround areas were great and unique. After all, the best avian catch would have been the burger at Owl’s.

South Exit of Bosque Del Apache.


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