A jogger trots along the River Loop Trail shielded by the shade of shimmering cottonwoods. A peloton blasts down a paved road along the Rio Grande, decked out in day glow spandex. An older lady sits at a bench on the riverbanks, meditating on the lazily moving river. A classroom of hyperactive eight-year-olds run through the fascinating exhibits at the Visitor Center, amazingly absorbing a good 30-33% of what is being explained at every station. These are some of the many scenes you will encounter at the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, a wonderful destination-point for people of all ages and interests, and homage to the Southwest’s staff of life, the Rio Grande.
Located in Albuquerque’s North Valley on Candelaria and Rio Grande Blvd the Rio Grande Nature Center is part of a bosque, or cottonwood forest by the wetland bordering the river. It boasts some 270 acres of woods, meadows and farmland with native grasses, wildflowers, willows and of course, cottonwoods. The park’s hub consists of the Visitor Center which was designed by Albuquerque native-architect Antoine Predock, and contains many exhibits on the area’s riparian environment.
And the flora and fauna do not disappoint. The animals provide the eye candy, with a huge range of species: everything from toads to beavers and great horned owls to woodpeckers. When I stopped by the Visitor Center I had the pleasure of watching a family of turtles from the comfortable air conditioned Predock-designed Observation Room.
If meditating on a slow-moving group of turtles (also known as a “bale”) isn’t your speed there are many other active ways at the Nature Center to enjoy the Rio Grande. The Riverwalk Trail and Bosque Loop Trail provide one-mile and 0.8 mile hikes, respectively through open meadows, heavily wooded areas and along the river. The paved road along the Rio Grande provides the perfect bicycle superhighway for those who want to go real fast.
The Nature Center realizes the vital role that the Rio Grande plays in the Southwest’s ecosystem. Since it is the fourth longest river system in North America, measuring some 1,248 miles long, it makes sense that Albuquerque holds it in such grande regard. My own video Sutter Sugar of The Sugar Team is my own tribute to the Rio Grande Nature Center and the Rio Grande, yet another example why I live to live here in Albuquerque!: