Water in the Desert: Japanese Garden Edition

Japanese Garden, Albuquerque botanical gardens

Originally uploaded by heinemanfleck.

No doubt there’s a rich literature out there about the idea of the “park,” a human-created faux natural setting, so I won’t try to reinvent it here. This is the new Japanese Garden at the city of Albuquerque’s beautiful botanical gardens. It just opened, it’s lovely, and Lissa and I enjoyed it Saturday on an inordinately warm autumn afternoon. “It’s the kind of place people go to who are in love,” Lissa said, which is an apt description. It’s nestled in cottonwoods, with a little lake and a waterfall and a stream and lovely walking paths and great rocks and the whole deal.

I don’t mean to diminish it by what I say next, because it’s a neat garden, and I will likely go there many times in the future, just as I have gone many times in the past to the botanical garden. But there’s something odd about it. No more than a quarter of a mile beyond this waterfall is an actual river, out through an old forest of cottonwoods. The whole length of that river through Albuquerque, there are only a handful of spots that I’m aware of where the concept of “park” has been used to bring people directly into contact with the river – where paths and benches and picnic tables have been set up to connect people with the Rio Grande. There are lots of recreational areas in the riverside forests, but they by and large turn their backs on the river itself. There are also a couple of places where bridges that cross the river anyway have been asked to do double duty with walkways that give you a chance to get out over the river if you so choose. I love to ride my bike over those (did this morning, in fact).

Instead, we build artificial water bits away from the river.


  1. That is particularly odd, that the Rio Grande is not the natural centerpiece of Albuquerque. (Well, I guess the Sandias are spectacular and easy to see from a distance, but still… would there be an Albuquerque if there weren’t a Rio Grande there?)

    And also, parks are a very good use of floodplains, even in an arid climate.

  2. i think the river would make a great location for a dog park. They got them out west like this. UIt’s about dog!

    Cheers, Mi3ke

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