The Rio Grand Nature Center is a state park in Albuquerque, located where Candelaria NW ends at the Rio Grande. It has been funded by the state of New Mexico since 1982. You enter the park on a foot path following along a row of old cottonwoods, golden at this time of year. The path leads you into the tunnel entrance of the visitor center, which is open seven days a week from 10:00am–4:00pm. The grounds are open longer, from 8:00am-5:00pm. The center is available to the public for meetings and other special events.

Photo: Ken Gingerich

The exhibits at the visitor center challenge the visitor with questions. For example, the fossil exhibit queries: “Why are the same fossils found on the Sandia mountaintop as found thousands of feet below in the Rio Grande Valley?” Another exhibit demonstrates how a marsh evolves into a meadow. Did you know that there are about 6,000 feet of sand and gravel deposits under Albuquerque? There are educational exhibits of habitats in the bosque, plus displays of birds, trees, and wetlands. There are also viewing windows of the pond next to the center where many turtles and ducks swim.

Several short walking trails provide sights of local plants and birds. These also connect to longer trails such as the Paseo del Bosque and the Aldo Leopold Trail. Aldo Leopold established the first wilderness area in a US Forest in the Gila area and subsequently moved to Albuquerque. Here he became active in the Chamber of Commerce and  championed the idea of preserving the bosque along the river. The Aldo Leopold Trail goes to Montaño Road and has interpretive signage.

Each Saturday and Sunday morning, there are guided bird walks on the nature center grounds. Currently they are averaging sightings of around 30 different species, with 200 species seen over the full year. A special nature walk is coming up on November 11 at 10:30 a.m. with a naturalist. People must register for both the weekly guided bird walks and upcoming nature walk by calling the center at 505-344-7240. Admission to the Center is free, but there is a $3.00 parking fee.