A Fish and Wildlife officer at Bosque del Apache NWR

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is a 57,191-acre refuge straddling the Rio Grande Valley in central New Mexico. Elevations on the property vary from about 4,500' to 6,272'. There are three designated wilderness areas on the property with a total of 30,850 acres among them, with another 18,500 acres tied up in designated research natural areas.

Water flows at Bosque del Apache are manipulated to mimic the natural ebb and flow of the Rio Grande, the waterway that made this such a popular area among the migratory bird populations in the first place. The marshes are flooded on a rotating basis so that habitats are being continually refreshed with vegetation constantly in the various stages of its natural growth cycle. Refuge staff have also put in a lot of time and effort to remove the invasive salt cedar and replant those areas in cottonwood, black willow, shrubs and other native understory vegetation.

Tens of thousands of migratory birds arrive at Bosque dal Apache every fall, coming to spend winter in a warmer place. Among the birds are many geese, ducks and sandhill cranes. The refuge offers a 15-mile auto tour loop for folks who want to get closer to the wildlife. Most wildlife on the property is accustomed to humans watching them, as long as the humans observe from inside their vehicles. The Tour Road is open from April through September, closed in the winter because it passes across an area much favored by eagles and cranes for roosting purposes. Vehicles are required to stay on existing roadways and not venture into any of the wilderness areas.

To get there: Bosque del Apache straddles Interstate 25 south of San Antonio. The Headquarters can be reached by exiting the I-25 at exit 139 and go east to the flashing light at Old Highway 1 (El Camino Real). Turn right and go south about 9 miles to the visitor center. Coming from the south, exit the I-25 at exit 124 (San Maracial) and go north on Old Highway 1 to the visitor center. The visitor center is open from 7:30 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday and from 8 am to 4:30 pm on weekends. The property is open to the public every day of the year from sunrise to sunset. Entry fees are $5 per day per passenger vehicle or motorcycle.

Water birds in the early morning at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Watching water birds in the early morning
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge map
Map of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
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Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge area map