Eighteen miles north of the wildlife refuge, Socorro
has a good selection of hotels.
Approach and Facilities
Away from the NWR, this region of New Mexico is quite undeveloped, and there are few roads apart from I-25
, running parallel to the Rio Grande a few miles to the west. The refuge is accessed via Hwy 1
(Old NM 85), which leaves the interstate near exit 115 and rejoins 27 miles further north (exit 139) at the small town of San Antonio
, south of Socorro. The refuge is about half way along, occupying a roughly triangular area of land ten miles in extent. Another entry is from exit 124 of the interstate, via a short unpaved road. Although the primary purposes are wildlife protection, land management and agricultural research, the wildlife refuge is managed like a state park - it has a visitor center, brochure, gift shop, picnic area, arboretum, scenic drive and hiking trails, and charges a fee ($5 in 2014) for entry. There is no campground (yet), but good locations for free camping can be found on the unfenced desert lands to the south.
Bosque del Apache MapMap of the central section of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Sights and Activities
The longer trails in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge cross the barren hills to the west (designated wilderness areas), so are not especially interesting, encountering similar terrain to any other elevated part of the New Mexico desert. Routes include the 2.5 mile (loop) Canyon Trail
in the Indian Well Wilderness Area, and the more strenuous, 5 mile Chupadera Trail
across the mountains in the northwest part of the reserve.
Instead, most visitors just drive the 12 mile Wildlife Tour road through the refuge, stopping at various overlooks and short paths. The road consists of two linked circuits, the Marsh Loop
through wetlands in the south, and the Farm Loop
across cultivated terrain in the north; both loops are wide gravel tracks running alongside the straight drainage channels that criss-cross the refuge, and pass many lesser tracks, closed to the public. The waters flow generally from north to south, over a few small weirs, and are periodically diverted to flood areas between the canals, land which is covered variously by grass, bushes or forest, so the inundation produces either long stretches of unbroken water, or swamp with trees and other vegetation. Most overlooks along the Marsh Loop are for birdwatching, or just looking at the riparian landscape; other attractions are a boardwalk trail across one of the permanent ponds (a good place to see fish and painted turtles), the 1.5 Marsh Overlook Trail
, the 2 mile Rio Viejo Trail
and the 2 mile River Trail
, looping through bushy land close to the Rio Grande. Apart from this path, the Rio Grande is out of sight, flowing a little way east of a larger canal (Low Flow Conveyance Channel) which runs near the far side of the loop drive. The Farm Loop is less interesting as it passes cultivated ground where research into different methods of crop production takes place, though this region is still good for bird watching, and even the fields have their own viewing platforms.