The network of marshes, fields, and woodlands at the 57,191-acre Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (a National Audubon Society Important Bird Area) is intensively managed to provide nesting, feeding, and roosting habitat for a wide variety of species. Part of the floodplain of the Rio Grande, the marshes, sloughs, cottonwood stands, and mesquite woods of the Bosque del Apache (bosque is Spanish for “woodland”) have long hosted scores of animals and human communities. The area’s hydrology has been extensively altered through flood control and diminution of the river’s flow, but the Bosque still supports stunning numbers of animals, notably wintering waterbirds.
Much of the current management strategy involves an ongoing effort to replace dense thickets of non-native Tamarisk trees -- which have little value for wildlife -- with native mesquites, willows, and cottonwoods, to the benefit of avian migrants such as the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.
The Bosque is most visited in winter, when huge flocks of Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese feed in nearby fields, along with a few Whooping Cranes. Bald Eagles are easily seen from the tour loop road, as are numerous species of ducks. But every season allows naturalists the opportunity to see what a wide range of animals -- migrants and permanent residents alike -- benefits from an abundance of water in the desert.
Have you been to this park? How many stars would you give it?