Posted by: Brad Nixon | May 13, 2016

The Spectacular Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico

There’s nothing quite so interesting as a big hole in the ground. I wrote about a very large man-made hole — a gold mine — HERE. Typically, though, when we think of interesting holes, they’re the ones nature makes, which exceed the power of humans to create. Like this one, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River in Colorado:

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Brad Nixon 9657 (640x480)

(For more photos and description of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CLICK HERE.)

Recently I wrote about the railroad yard in Chama, in north-central New Mexico. I said at the time we’d travel more along U.S. Route 64, which comes down out of high country to the east to Chama. You could see a wide swath of the U.S. along Route 64, but we’ll only travel about 90 miles to the east, through beautiful alpine country to Tres Piedras, then almost to Taos across high desert at about 7,000 feet elevation. Here’s a map for context with recent articles.

Northern New Mexico marked

The dotted line at the top is the border with Colorado. Chama is in the yellow circle in the upper left. Another recent post, about Ghost Ranch, was located in the lower left in the black circle. Taos is on the right edge in the red circle. Our destination today is about 12 miles before Taos, the blue circle where Route 64 crosses the Rio Grande River

Rio Grande Gorge Mark Nixon 0787 (640x470)

The road crosses the gorge on the Rio Grande Gorge bridge.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Mark Nixon 0795 (640x480)

At 565 feet above the river, it’s the 7th highest bridge in the U.S. The Rio Grande follows a tectonic rift here, in land that is otherwise extremely flat, so that you come upon the gorge in quite dramatic fashion.

For engineering buffs and pontiphiles, it’s technically a steel arch deck bridge. The center span is 600 feet. You can’t park on the bridge, but you can walk onto it, and you may be able to spot the people on it in this photo.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge Mark Nixon 0796 (640x480)

At its deepest, a little south (downstream) of the bridge, the gorge is 800 feet deep. Here’s the view looking straight down from the bridge, for those not prone to vertigo.

Rio Grande Mark Nixon 0789 (640x480)

The high desert here is interesting in its own right, but the opportunity to see the otherwise difficult-to-reach gorge is an added bonus. There’s whitewater rafting in this section of the Rio Grande, and a lot more to see and do, as well.

If one continues east of Taos on 64, you climb high into the Sangre de Christo range, then on to Cimarron, down to Raton and across vast grasslands into Texas. Ah, more to see.

A special note for fans of big holes in the earth. I’ve yet to write about the Grand Canyon. If you’ve ever wondered if it’s worth the trip to see it, the answer is yes. Period. America’s a big place, but I hope you get to see the Rio Grande, the Gunnison, the Columbia and as many other spectacular rivers as possible. But don’t miss that one.

© Brad Nixon 2016, 2017. Special thanks for the Rio Grande photos, © Mark Nixon 2017, used by kind permission.



  1. It looks amazing! I wouldn’t be able to handle it with my fear of heights I don’t think!

    Liked by 1 person

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