Water in the Desert: January Quiet

Tramway (Not So) Wetlands

Originally uploaded by heinemanfleck.

January’s a time of quiet and anticipation.

What water there is in our rivers is mostly what they call “base flow”, which is really just the surface manifestation of groundwater leaking into the river channel. Or they’re just dry.

The runoff to come is frozen in the mountains, slowly building up (or not) as winter storms move across the watersheds that, come spring, will feed the desert rivers.

If you’ve got some work to get done in a river bed, now’s a great time. My friend Andrew and I stopped at what we call “the Tramway wetlands” today when we were riding up north of town. (That’s Andrew’s bike in the right foreground of the picture.) The wetland, created by the outflow from Albuquerque’s storm water system, is a favorite of birders, a wide shallow channel where the water slows before it enters the Rio Grande. After a warm season storm, the water flows, and at the right time of year, it’s sandpiper city. Now, though, not so much. A construction crew has built a coffer dam to divert what small bits of water that come so they can rebuild the highway bridge.

To the north, the road cuts through Sandia Pueblo, where the farm fields are dormant, save some cattle subsisting on bales set aside for winter. The color palette is all soft browns, yellows and grays. It looked like even the cows were waiting for the next thing to happen, which is what January seems to be about.

One Comment

  1. Always marveled at the diversity of wildlife and trash I see at the North Diversion Channel outflow. Once saw a shopping cart sized turtle. Silly that this nasty untreated urban runoff point is upstream of drinking water intake.

    Could be wrong, but I heard an interesting story somewhere behind its construction and how then fledgling AMAFCA bungled the easement through Sandia land with repercussions limiting uses in this area (including trans. rec, and water treatment.)

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