Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten - Rio Grande Gorge


The Rio Grande Gorge was one of the last places to make it to our Taos schedule. The reason it got on our agenda at all was because of a few last minute recommendations rather than anything I ever knew about the place. A year ago, I toured and hiked the Grand Canyon. I have heard and read about Mexico's Copper Canyon. The Rio Grande Gorge was a total unknown and my expectations were not very high.

On Friday morning, after having breakfast in a funky little local cafe near the Plaza and trying unsuccessfully to find an ATM machine that would take any of our credit cards, we drove out of Taos on Route 64, the main highway to the west..


Rio Grand Gorge - North View

New Mexico is filled with wonderful surprises. Rio Grande Gorge is one of them. Little publicized, the 800 foot deep Gorge is scarcely known outside northern New Mexico.

The Gorge, which lies six miles to the west of the Taos Pueblo, was part of a natural defense system for the Taos Indians. The Sangre de Christo Mountains provided comparable natural barrier on the north and east.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which manages the Rio Grande Gorge, today classifies the Rio Grande Gorge area as "a wild and remote area of northern New Mexico."


September 17, 1999


September 17, 1999

Rio Grande Gorge
Route 64 Near Taos, New Mexico

The Rio Grande Gorge reminded me a little of the Grand Canyon but it is of course much smaller. In a way, I liked it better than the Grand Canyon, which is so immense and overpowering that one can't really grasp it.

At 800 feet, the Gorge is deep enough to impress anyone yet it doesn't overwhelm you. You look down and know that it might take a long while but you could climb down -- and back up.

The Rio Grand Gorge is another example of what I meant when I said that New Mexico is filled with "manageable beauty."

Rio Grand Bridge Overlook

Along the 500 foot length of the bridge, which is the 2nd highest cantilever truss bridge in the USA, on either side of the highway are sidewalks and overlook areas for pedestrians.

The bridge engineers obviously know that people would want to look at and photograph the Gorge, and designed the bridge to accommodate them without interfering with traffic.


September 17, 1999


September 17, 1999

Rio Grand Gorge - South View

The Rio Grande was among the original eight rivers designated by Congress as Wild and Scenic in 1968. The designated area includes 60 miles of the Rio Grande from the Colorado/New Mexico state line to below Taos and the Rio Grande Gorge.

Today, the river is popular with rafters. Up river from Taos, as well as down river by Espanola, there are outfitters that specialize in rafting.

I could see rapids 800 feet below with rocks so closely packed that it was hard to imagine how rafts are able to get through.

It occurred to me that boaters might carry their rafts around, but I could not see any sign of a trail on either bank. We saw no rafts on this day.


Juniper, Sage, the Sangre de Christo Mountains and Me

The Rio Grand Gorge is less than a hundred feet behind me. This was another thing about the Gorge that reminded me of the Grand Canyon -- you could drive along across the plateau and not have a clue that a wondrous gorge was hiding a few miles or even a few hundred feet ahead. You almost don't know until you are on the rim.


September 17, 1999


September 17, 1999

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

"Most Beautiful Long Span Steel Bridge"

Presented to
New Mexico State Highway Commission

Courtesy New Mexico State Highway Commission


Email: Elizabeth Anne VanderPutten