Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Photo by John Duncan

Where in the West Should I Go? • 52 Places to Visit in 2022

Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge has cultivated its wetlands to imitate the Rio Grande when it ran wild. Located near Socorro, the 57,000-plus acre refuge is home to the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, the yellow-billed cuckoo, the Rio Grande silvery minnow and other endangered species. It’s also home to more familiar animals – mountain lions, reptiles, bats, rats and deer.

From late October to late January, sandhill cranes move through the refuge to feed, rest and socialize. These socially complex creatures employ at least 10 different types of calls. The birds posture and perform elaborate dances for everything from joy to courtship. It’s a sight to see.

Bosque del Apache also plays host to a wide array of waterfowl, songbirds, shorebirds, marsh birds, waders and raptors. It is truly a birder’s paradise. My last trip to the Bosque was in the fall. The cranes hadn’t arrived, but neither had the crowds of people.

I observed a squadron of javelina and a flock of wild turkeys up close. Then I spotted a pair of coyotes on a hill and caught a glimpse of a skunk as it disappeared into the brush. All this in about an hour’s visit. 

Bosque del Apache is open year-round. No matter what season you visit, it will feel like you’re stepping into the distant past. You might want to take a day or two to really soak it in.

–John Gist