New Mexico’s Rio Grande, rising

My co-author Eric Kuhn was in town over the weekend to finish up the copy edits for our upcoming book Science be Dammed, and happily we were not so busy that we didn’t have a chance to get in a couple of bike rides. (In our collaboration these last few years, “Are you going to bring a bike?” or “Should I bring a helmet?” have played an valuable role.)

Eric Kuhn at the Rio Grande, Albuquerque, New Mexico, April 2019

We got rides out to Albuquerque’s Rio Grande both Saturday and Sunday, and with the river rising in response to our big snowmelt, we started to see some “overbanking” in channels build by environmental engineers to mimic the old flood plain flows this valley used to see.

I am obsessed, and have been getting out lately nearly ever day (one has to ride one’s bike somewhere, right?) to see the river rise. Here, for those in Albuquerque who want to enjoy the obsession along with me, is a map to a couple of my favorite spots right now:


Both are easily accessible via the city open space trail that starts at the parking and picnic area on the north/east side of the river just upstream from the Central Avenue Bridge.


  1. This is my favorite thing to do on the Gila when flows are high: run around and see what’s flowing. But extra special on the Rio Grande, b/c it’s even more infrequent.

  2. Martha …. I “went against suggestions” about 15 years ago and forded the East Fork of the Gila, inside the wilderness, when in a rare especially high spring flood. I had a bit of a struggle; I’m 6-5 and the water came over my belly button. Crossing at a 45-degree angle, I still came out downstream of my entry.

  3. Hey John, thanks for the posting. Those are great sites. FYI, the Atrisco backwater/HR sites..located on the western bank of the River across from the two sites you show, should be overbanking soon also.

  4. Great to see the Rio rising! But what about compliance with the Rio Grande Compact? I understand that in years of high flows, New Mexico has a difficult time complying with the Compact. Specifically, getting enough water through the middle valley and into Elephant Butte. Is that true?

  5. Sterling – This is why, despite the fact that we’ll be out of Article VII storage restrictions for a good part of the year, you won’t likely see much storage in El Vado etc. Not enough water to both store *and* meet compact delivery obligations in a wet year like this, yes.

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