Thursday, September 14, 2017

Lagunitas Lakes Make for Fine Fall Fishing

By Karl Moffatt

New Mexico’s long, hot summer is finally over and abundant monsoon rains have created a lush landscape for us to play in this fall.

Many would argue that autumn is the best time of year to get outdoors and enjoy all that the state has to offer.

The days are pleasantly warm and sunny while nights are crisp and cool. Gone are the summer’s tourist crowds and it is a time locals savor.

And with the drought officially over for the first time in 18 years many of the region’s lakes, rivers and streams are primed for outdoor recreational pursuits.

So whether it’s hiking, camping, fishing or sightseeing there’s plenty of great places to visit and enjoy during northern New Mexico’s most spectacular season.

One great fall destination that provides all of the above in a remote, backcountry setting is Lagunitas campgrounds in the Carson National Forest just outside the Cruces Wilderness Basin.

The remote campgrounds feature a couple of small, well stocked trout ponds surrounded by open meadows and stands of aspen and pine trees.

The 25 mile drive on Forest Road 87 to the campgrounds is worth the trip alone. It’s found just off U.S. 285 about 10 miles north of Tres Piedras.

The well maintained road winds its way along San Antonio Creek before climbing to a plateau offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Note the intersection of Forest Road 87A as this is the turnoff to the Los Pinos River and an alternative return route that comes out near Antonito, Colo.

Proceed into the woods and proceed to the lower campground to find a cinderblock outhouse and campsites amid the pines by the ponds.

Visitors may be curious about the charred remains of a building back in the trees and a concrete slab where a U.S. Forest Service once stood. See Otter Olshansky: A Lonely Death on New Mexico's Continental Divide Trail to learn more about what happened here.
Visitors to the campgrounds in the fall may encounter cattle roundups, continental divide trail hikers and bikers, wildlife, hunters and spectacular fall foliage.

The campgrounds are officially open June through October but remains accessible year round depending on the weather and road conditions. Anyone venturing into the backcountry to during the off season is asked to check in at the Tres Piedras Ranger station and let them know. Dispersed camping also is available throughout the area. For more information try contacting the Tres Piedras Ranger District at (575) 758-8678.

When traveling through Tres Peidras support the local economy by stopping at the Chile Line Depot. They serve great burgers, breakfast burritos, coffee and baked goods and are providing travelers a valuable service on what is otherwise a very long, lonely stretch of rural highway. We love this place, check them out at

For other suggestions about where to go in New Mexico to enjoy fall camping and scenery see some of our previous articles at Fall is a Great Time for Camping in New Mexico and Visit the Valle Vidal for Great Fall Scenery and Throw a Cruise by the Brazos for Best Fall Colors.

Monday, April 10, 2017

NM Game and Fish Biologist Marc Wethington Given Lifetime Achievement Award

By Glen Rosales - Courtesy of the Albuquerque Journal

Marc Wethington grew on the San Juan River near the Four Corners area.
So it’s not too surprising that his life’s work has been dedicated to maintaining the river below the Navajo dam as one of the leading fisheries in the world.

For his efforts over the course of a 21-year career as a fisheries biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Wethington recently received the Fish Head of the Year Award honoring lifetime achievement from the American Fisheries Society.

“It was greatly appreciated to get the award and to get the pat on the back. It’s been consuming to me for many years,” he said of his work. “I think it’s also good for the department. A lot of folks that work really hard in our agency that are deserving also, and without their help and I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this.”

The world-renowned fishery that covers a stretch of the river about four miles from below the dam, boasts an estimated 70,000 trout averaging 16 to 18 inches in length. It is widely regarded among anglers as one of the West’s top trout streams.

And it’s something Wethington, 53, of Kirtland, has been passionate about since his youth.

“As a child, a teenager, the bulk of our family trips and vacations were about camping, fishing that type of stuff,” he said. “That outdoor sort of stuff I have been doing my entire life.”

Wethington earned an undergrad degree in environmental science from New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M., then got into the life sciences graduate program focusing on aquatic entomology.

“And I started doing contract work on the San Juan on native fish, and aquatic invertebrate (insects) just blow dam in the special trout fishery and that’s really where I really got interested in fisheries,” he said.

While a lot of the work is relatively mundane – collecting and analyzing data culled from surveys with the anglers who use the area – Wethington has also made a point of hands-on work in the field.

“The last probably 10-12 years I’ve really been pushing habitat work in and along the channel to improve the fishery,” he said, adding downstream water development has led to the drop in water levels.

“Since we have less water, we had to manage it better,” Wethington said. “Excavating pools, narrowing the channel to increase depth and velocity, that helps with depth and transport sediment to keep the bottom clean.”

Keeping the San Juan River fishery a viable and attract spot for both fish and the fishermen is critical, he said.

“People in New Mexico don’t realize the significance as far as sport fishing, how important this is as a destination fishery,” he said. “In the special trout waters, about 250,000 to 300,000 hours a year people spend fishing it and that means $35-$40 million year a year from the fishery as far as the economy.”

Read more about improvements to the San Juan at:

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