Originally uploaded by heinemanfleck.

That’s the Rio Grande you see there – the entire Rio Grande, as it leaves Cochiti Dam 40 river miles north of Albuquerque. It was flowing at about 1,000 cubic feet per second today when Lissa and I drove by during a Sunday wander.

Cochiti, completed in the early 1970s, is the primary flood control dam blocking high spring flows from the middle Rio Grande Valley, where Albuquerque is located.

View Cochiti in a larger map

It’s an earthen dam, built across a narrow point where the Rio Grande leaves the volcanic uplands of northern New Mexico and enters the broad valley where most of the state’s population lives.

Lissa and I drove up the back roads, dirt a good part of the way, that track the river through the Indian pueblos that fill the valley for the first 20 or so miles south of the dam. The interstate has carved a more practical route between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Much of the quiet bottomland is missed, which is just as well for the place, I suspect. We saw kestrels and meadowlarks and a throng of turkey vultures flying against a stiff wind so they were really just hovering in place. Right after I took the picture above, a trio of cormorants flew down to land on the flat water just below the outlet falls.

We also could have sworn we saw an Aplomado falcon, but that couldn’t be, could it? Nah.