The Tularosa Basin, Bosque del Apache

The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is famous as a wintering spot for sandhill cranes and snow geese. The refuge consists of a series of large diked ponds adjacent to the Rio Grande, flooded and drained as needed to maintain wildlife habitat. The managed flooding is intended to emulate the natural flooding of the river that has been ‘harnessed’ by our civilized society.

We spend a half day at the refuge, a place that’s been on my bucket list since I saw some of the great sandhill crane photos taken at the refuge. We are fans of Sherburne and Rice Lake wildlife refuges in Minnesota and Crex Meadows in Wisconsin, so Bosque del Apache had a familiar feel.


As we entered the refuge, we saw a thousand or so snow geese take off in a panic, fly in a circle and land a few seconds later. I think they were just glad to see us and wanted to get a bit closer.

Snow Geese, excited to see us.

The sandhills were gone, presumably on their way north. That’s fine – we see thousands of sandhills at Crex Meadows, an hour and a half from home so we don’t need to see them here.

The migratory waterfowl were starting to arrive. Hawks were everywhere. They must have been bored – some of them had nothing better to do than show the tourists their latest ballet moves.

I logged a couple dozen bird species – and if I were better at id’ing I would have logged a dozen more.

Tonight we are camping in the Organ Mountains in a BLM campground about a third of the way up from the valley floor. The campground overlooks the southern edge of the Tularosa Basin, a Native American agricultural area until the 13th century. The basin is notable today for White Sands National Park and the White Sands Missle Range.

View from the Organ Mountains

It’s cold tonight – we’ll probably see high twenties early tomorrow morning. The campervan has a furnace and we have a down comforter and long john’s, so we’ll be warm enough. Certainly warmer than if we were camping in northern Minnesota, where the lows were somewhere south of thirty below zero last night.