It has been one of those years in which, if I didn't have any photographs,…
Ute Mountain, located on the northern edge of the county of Taos, New Mexico, is perhaps the crown jewel of the new El Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Ute is a 10,093 foot high volcanic cone rising nearly 3,000 feet above the surrounding plain. Ute is something you can’t miss. Located about ten miles west of the tiny village of Costilla, it is the dominant feature for those driving north from Taos along highway 522 in Colorado.
Below and to the west of Ute, the Rio Grande enters New Mexico running about 200 feet below the stony rims of the 150-foot wide gorge. Just south of Ute, the gorge plunges to 900-feet deep. The gorge is as stunning as Ute Mountain and serves as a key stop along the Rio Grande Migratory Flyway. Eagles, hawks and falcons nest along the gorge, while ospreys, scaups, hummingbirds, herons, avocets, merlins and willits pass through during migration seasons. Sandhill cranes make a riotous appearance in October, as they arrive from the north on they’re way to southern New Mexico.
The steep slopes of Ute mountain are covered in pinyon at the base, as well as pockets of ponderosa, aspen, white pine and Douglas Fir in the higher elevations. From grassy meadows of blue grama, western wheatgrass and Indian ricegrass where the trees thin, the Gorge is a jagged, inky slash dividing Ute from its sister cones to the west. Snow-capped Blanca rises to the north, just across the state line. The whole Sangre de Cristo range falls to the east, terminating, view-wise, at Wheeler Peak.
The country of Taos, New Mexico is lucky to be home to this giant new National Monument and its wilderness crown-jewel.
Another view of Ute, from the south looking north, is available here.