Jemez River Area

We recently spent a couple of nights at the Vista Linda Campground near Jemez Springs, NM. 

This is a small, quiet campground that sits right alongside the Jemez River and is framed by some gorgeous cliffs.  There are only 13 or 14 sites here, but they are all large, paved, and some even have really nice shade structures which we can imagine would be invaluable during the summer!  We aren’t sure how much use this campground normally gets, but while we have been here it has been very light.  Our first night we were the only ones camping, and the second night we were one of only three occupied sites. 

The area near the campground is pretty neat, so we set out one day to explore.  Our explorations took us further up Highway 4 where our first stop was Soda Dam.  This is a natural dam that is continuously being built by calcium carbonate deposits that are left behind by a spring that is bubbling to the surface from below.  The dam is 300 feet long, 50 feet tall, and 50 feet wide at the base.  There is also a cave-like area inside the dam that you can pretty easily climb up into.  Inside are some amazing formations and patterns being left by the water and its mineral deposits.  Even slightly away from the dam, you can see water rising to the surface of the rocks around it and running off toward the river.  It is a little strange to be walking on flat rock and see water coming from inside it with no obvious source!

From Soda Dam, we continued on to Valles Caldera National Preserve.  This place is basically a sunken volcano.  Who knew there was so much past volcanic activity in New Mexico??  We sure didn’t!  At any rate, the volcano here erupted 1.25 million years ago and its eruption was 300 times larger than the size of Mount Saint Helens’ in 1980!  Once the vast magma chamber was emptied after the eruption, the land on top sank down creating one of the world’s best examples of an intact caldera.  Afterward, the magma again begin to fill in underneath, heaving the land up into multiple domes throughout the preserve.  We hiked around the base of the smallest of these domes, La Jara.  The ranger we spoke with said this hike is a great place to see wildlife, mainly elk and coyotes, but the weather was less than great while we were there (cold rain, snow, wind), so the animals seemed to have all taken cover elsewhere.  We had hoped to go on a couple more hikes, but the weather just wasn’t cooperative.  It isn’t much fun when cold rain and snow are blowing in your face the whole way!  There is also a huge backcountry area to this preserve that we would love to see, but it closed for the season three days before our visit.  We were able to visit the Cabin District of the preserve, though, where there are multiple cabins dating from 1915 to 1951 that were used during the ranching days of the area.  The setting here is so beautiful and it seems like it would be such a peaceful place to live!  Interestingly, the Ranch Foreman’s Cabin was used in the television show Longmire as the main character’s home.  We have never seen the show, but the ranger said the cabin draws many fans to the preserve who would not otherwise visit.

We weren’t ready to head in for the day quite yet, and there was a little break in the weather, so on the way back to the camper we stopped at Jemez Falls.  This is a short quarter mile hike to a nice waterfall along the Jemez River.  There was a nice overlook at the end of the trail along with a rocky area you could scramble around on to get views from different vantage points.  We always enjoy when you can explore a bit on your own and see things from multiple angles!

Battleship Rock

Finally, we pulled off the road one last time to view Battleship Rock.  The best view is actually from the road, and from there it is very easy to understand how the rock got its name.  It is a little less obvious from the pullouts where the photos were taken, but with a little imagination you can still see the battleship!

This area of New Mexico is spectacular!  There are so many easily accessible things to do and see, and we only scratched the surface!  Every few miles is some new roadside pullout, or trailhead, or river access point!  There are even natural hot springs you can hike to for a nice soak!  As usual, we have added another area to our list of places we need to return!  That list just grows and grows!

Until next time!

2 thoughts on “Jemez River Area”

  1. How awesome to have that place almost entirely to yourself! Soda dam and the caldera are just the kind of places I like to explore.

    I love New Mexico. It is so overlooked.

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