Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ambitious Rio Grande Trail Project Moves Ahead

Dona Ana Mountains near Las Cruces
The Rio Grande Trail Commission is scheduled to meet Dec. 20 in Santa Fe to vote on adoption of the Rio Grande Trail Master Plan.

The ambitious plan seeks to create a nearly500-mile long trail system along the Rio Grande corridor to enhance the state’s outdoor recreation industry.

The meeting will begin at 1 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 20 at the State Records Center and Archives’ PiƱon Room, 1205 Camino Carlos Rey in Santa Fe

The master plan can be reviewed on the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department’s (EMNRD) website at Send any comments about the plan to

Commissioners are slated to vote during the upcoming meeting on adoption of a 1.9 mile stretch of existing pedestrian walkway in the city of Elephant Butte to add to the trail.

The additional mileage will join another 87 miles of trails already adopted that are primarily found within many state parks that exist along the route including Elephant Butte Lake, Caballo Lake, Leasburg Dam, Mesilla Valley Bosque, Percha Dam and the Rio Grande Nature Center.

Existing trails along the river in Las Cruces and within the Rio Grande Corridor National Monument in northern New Mexico also have been adopted, said John Busemeyer, a planner with the State Parks Division of EMNRD.
The Big River within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument
The project was launched with bi-partisan legislation and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez in 2015 to create a commission to oversee the project.

The project envisions a nearly contiguous trail system along the Rio Grande Corridor from the Colorado to Texas state lines. The system when finished would include established trails, interpretive signage and camp sites along the way.

The plan seeks to bring together on a voluntary basis many different groups including municipal, county, state, federal and tribal government agencies as well as private landowners.

The long-term project when complete will add another destination for outdoor enthusiasts to hike much like the state’s section of Continental Divide Trail (CDT). The national trail spans 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada and brings thousands of visitors to the state annually.

Hikers on the Continental Divide Trail at Hopewell Lake in northern New Mexico.  

The CDT provides a rugged, backcountry experience for users, with an emphasis on conservation and self-reliance but the Rio Grande Trail will offer a more accessible way for people to explore the state, with less challenging terrain, closer proximity to cities, and developed amenities, according to the Rio Grande Trail Master Plan.

New Mexico’s outdoor recreational industry includes hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, sightseeing, bird watching, golfing, skiing, mountain biking, horseback riding, motorized off-roading and other outside activities.

The industry brings in about $10 billion in consumer spending each year, supports close to 100,000 jobs across the state and generates almost $3 billion in payroll while providing more than $600 million in taxes to government coffers, according to reports from the national outdoor industry association. 

For more information about the Rio Grande Trail please visit

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