While we are all being very responsible social distancers these days (you are being responsible, right?) you may find that you are needing some of that all important healing power of nature. Bird watching is a fun and healthy way to naturally social-distance. And the Rio Fernando Wetlands are probably the best place for bird watching in Taos County. So, what do you need to know about birding at the Rio Fernando Wetlands?
The Rio Fernando Wetlands are a combined area totaling about 30-acres on the southwest side of Taos, not far from the center of town. Town of Taos-owned Fred Baca Park and Taos Land Trust-owned Rio Fernando Park, make up the popular Ebird hotspot.
On May 19, 2020 the Taos Land Trust (TLT) and Santa Fe Conservation Trust put ink to paper to permanently protect Rio Fernando park via a conservation easement. The easement will preserve scenic this open space and valuable irrigated agricultural land and wildlife habitat while offering recreational and educational benefits of the residents of Taos County in perpetuity.
Taos County as a whole has on record 276 bird species. The Río Fernando wetlands hot spot has 186 species—two-thirds of the species that have been recorded in the whole county.
In 2015 the Taos Land Trust, a conservation organization, purchased the former Romo Farm—20 acres in the heart of Taos. Abandoned for 30-some years, the farm was a mess of weeds, barbed wire, and trash. The river had worn into channels that failed to slow the healthy flow of water. Invasive plants thrived. Over the past four years, the land trust, its partners, and teams of volunteers have carefully restored the land, returning the river to its natural course and re-growing the wetlands.
The area is not all wetlands. On the Rio Fernando Park section there are sections of upland fields and forests that are also rich with bird life. On the Fred Baca side, a large public park surrounds the wetlands section on three sides. Large cottonwood trees along the perimeter of the park often hosts hawks and owls. The wetlands on the Fred Baca side are best seen via a boardwalk and two viewing platforms.
Rio Fernando Park hosts both a half-mile loop trail around the entire park and a quarter mile wetlands trail and traces the edge of the wetlands.
The Rio Fernando Wetlands are also rich in other wildlife. At least one beaver family has made its home in Fred Baca Park while another family calls a section of the creek in Rio Fernando Park, home-base. Coyote, bats and a wide-array of other creatures call the are home.
If you go birding the Rio Fernando Wetlands:
- The Rio Fernando Wetlands are free to access.
- Parking is best at Rio Fernando Park. The parking lot is open from 8am to 8pm during the summer and 8am to 5pm in the winter. Rio Fernando park is accessed by a small bridge over the Rio Fernando and then via a gate near the boardwalk.
- Please remember that your dog must be on leash at all times in both Rio Fernando and Fred Baca parks. Please also keep your pet out of the wetlands as this disturbs the wildlife and negatively impacts water quality (E.coli associated with dogs has been found in the Rio Fernando). Please also pick up after your dog. Trash cans and doggy bags are provided.
- Restrooms are located in Fred Baca Park.
- Water is not available, bring your own.
- Mosquitos are common in the summer
- The boardwalk is often icy and dangerous in the winter.
Please support our work restore and protect this area, with a donation. Also check out the work our partners are doing: the Rio Fernando Collaborative is working to restore the entire watershed.
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