Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Coordinates: 33°52′9″N 106°50′34.6″W / 33.86917°N 106.842944°W / 33.86917; -106.842944
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Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
Snow geese at Bosque del Apache
Map showing the location of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Map showing the location of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
LocationSocorro County, New Mexico, United States
Nearest citySan Antonio, NM
Coordinates33°52′9″N 106°50′34.6″W / 33.86917°N 106.842944°W / 33.86917; -106.842944
Area57,331 acres (232.01 km2)[1]
Visitors160,000 (in 2006)
Governing bodyU.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
WebsiteBosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Sandhill cranes at Bosque del Apache

The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (/ˈbsk dɛl əˈpæi/ BOH-skay del ə-PATCH-ee, Spanish: [ˈboske ðel aˈpatʃe]; "Woodland of the Apache") is located in southern New Mexico. It was founded in 1939 and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Piro people lived in the lands around what is now the refuge until the 1600s, when they were forced to abandon their pueblos due to European diseases and attacks from the Apache tribes.[3] It is a favorite spot to watch the migration of the sandhill cranes in the fall. The reserve is open year-round and provides safe harbor for its varied wildlife.[4] Visitors to the refuge also enjoy partaking in activites such as hiking, cycling, driving tours on the 12-mile scenic auto route, and participating in educational programs offered at the park.[5]


The name of the refuge means "woodland of the Apache" [sg] in Spanish, named for the Apache tribes that once camped in the forests along the Rio Grande.[6]

The heart of the refuge comprises approximately 3,800 acres (15 km2) of Rio Grande floodplain and 9,100 acres (37 km2) of irrigated farms and wetlands. In addition to this, the refuge contains 44,300 acres (179 km2) of arid grasslands and foothills of the Chupadera and San Pascual Mountains.[7]The refuge sits within the Little San Pascual Mountain fault zone, rendering it an ideal site for conducting research on stratigraphy and sedimentology.[8]

About 30,000 acres (120 km2) of this is designated as wilderness.[6] A twelve-mile-long (19 km) loop road divided by a cutoff into a "Farm Loop" and "Marsh Loop" allows automobile drivers excellent views of wetland wildlife and raptors, and there are several short (1.5 to 10 miles) walking trails.[9] The road affords good views of the fields where crops are grown for the benefit of the birds under cooperative agreements with farmers. Adjacent to the Visitor's Center, a desert plant garden is maintained.[10]


About 7,000 acres (28 km2) in the center of the refuge are made up of flood-plains watered by irrigation systems connected to the Rio Grande. These flood-plains provide an essential habitat for cottonwood and honey mesquite trees, Goodings and coyote willows, and four-wing saltbushes. The plains are flooded periodically to give these plants the best growing conditions.[11] In recent years, elk have caused damage to corn crops at the refuge. This damage disrupts the refuge's capacity to supply supplemental food to the sandhill cranes and other waterfowl species that overwinter there. [12]

The flood plains also grow foods for the wildlife that need marshlands to grow. These plants include smartweed, millet, chufa, bulrush, and sedge. These marshlands begin dry, and are burned or turned over before they are flooded in order to produce fresh soil for the new plants. They are then flooded to become the breeding grounds for these marsh plants.[6] The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and the wetlands near the Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs demonstrate considerable promise for sustaining breeding bird populations over the course of the upcoming century. Similar suitable breeding terrain is found only on private land surrounding the refuge. [13] Changes in surface flooding and vegetation structure are not affecting shrub-nesting birds who can use other woody debris for nesting; however, canopy nesting birds rely on native trees and are thus more sensitive to environmental changes.[14]

The Bosque del Apache is also made up of several acres of dry land. One unit contains 5,440 acres (23 km2) of scrubland and desert terrain that is connected to the Chihuahuan desert. This area is called the Chupadera Peak Wilderness Unit. In addition to desert terrain, the Chupadera Peak Wilderness Unit is characterized by tall, reddish cliffs.[15]


There have been 394 different bird species observed in the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge since 1964 according to eBird, making it one of the most diverse areas for bird species in the United States .[16] The wetlands attract the huge flocks of wintering cranes and geese that are the refuge's most interesting feature. Many other species—notably waterfowl, shorebirds, and birds of prey—also winter in the refuge. Striking vagrants such as a groove-billed ani and rufous-necked wood rail have been found there. In the Chihuahuan desert terrain outside of the Rio Grande riparian zone, the refuge also hosts three federally designated Wilderness areas (Chupadera, Little San Pascual, and Indian Well).

The diversity of birds is also high in spring, particularly the last week of April and first week of May, and in fall. In summer the area is hot but many water birds can be found, including such New Mexico rarities as the least bittern and occasionally the little blue heron. Late November to late February is the best time for large numbers of birds, typically over 10,000 sandhill cranes and over 20,000 Ross's and snow geese. An annual 'festival of the cranes' is held in early December as large numbers of cranes begin arriving in the refuge. Winter visitors generally plan to be in the refuge at sunrise or sunset, when the flocks of cranes and geese that roost in the refuge "commute" to or from local fields where they feed. Although winter sunsets and especially sunrises are chilly, the daily low temperature is seldom far below freezing. Visitors typically stay in the nearby RV park or in Socorro or San Antonio.


In addition to hosting rare bird species, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is also home to the southernmost known population of the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse along the Rio Grande river. This mouse is a distinctive, genetically unique subspecies found in certain regions of New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Colorado. Due to its rarity, the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse has been listed as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.[17]

The wetlands within the refuge have experienced an overabundance of the invasive tree species Tamarisk in recent years. To combat this issue, the Bosque NWR has utilized various control methods over time, such as herbicide application and prescribed burning. The Tamarisk removal efforts undertaken in the park have served as a case study for similar removal initiatives in other protected areas.[18]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Annual Report of Lands as of September 30, 2009" (PDF). United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
  2. ^ "Bosque del Apache NWR" (PDF). Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  3. ^ "About Us". US Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 9 March 2024.
  4. ^ "About the Refuge - Bosque del Apache - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service". Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  5. ^ "Visit Us". US Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 9 March 2024.
  6. ^ a b c "Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge" (PDF). Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  7. ^ "About the Refuge". Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  8. ^ Koning, Daniel J., Heizler, Matthew T. (January 2022). "Stratigraphy and sedimentology of the Santa Fe Group adjoining the Little San Pascual Mountains – implications for footwall exhumation and evolution of the Little San Pascual Mountain fault zone". New Mexico Geological Society: 203–204 – via OpenAIRE Explore.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ "Hiking Trails - Bosque del Apache - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service". Retrieved 9 March 2024.
  10. ^ "Tour loop map". Friends of the Bosque. Retrieved 1 June 2010.
  11. ^ Sapp, Methea K. (25 November 2009). America's Natural Places: Pacific and West. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313353192.
  12. ^ DeVore, R. M., Butler, M. J., Wallace, M. C., Liley, S. L., Mertz, A. A., Sesnie, S. E., & Gipson, P. S. (April 2016). "Elk resource selection patterns in a semiarid riparian corridor". The Journal of Wildlife Management. 80 (3): 479–489. doi:10.1002/jwmg.1040. hdl:2346/93729 – via JSTOR.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ Friggens, M. M., & Finch, D. M (23 December 2015). "Implications of Climate Change for Bird Conservation in the Southwestern US under Three Alternative Futures". PLOS. 10 (12): 11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0144089. PMID 26700871.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Hamilton, S.G., King, S.L., Dello Russo, G. Kaller, M.D. (25 May 2019). "Effect of Hydrologic, Geomorphic, and Vegetative Conditions on Avian Communities in The Middle Rio Grande of New Mexico". Wetlands: Official Scholarly Journal of the Society of Wetland Scientists: 1029–1042 – via Gale Academic One Source.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ "Wilderness Units - Bosque del Apache - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service". Retrieved 6 May 2017.
  16. ^ "Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge". Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  17. ^ Wright, G. D., & Frey, J. K. (1 February 2015). "Habitat Selection by the Endangered New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse on an Irrigated Floodplain". Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management. 6: 112–129. doi:10.3996/062014-JFWM-044 – via OpenAire.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Briggs, Mark K., Osterkamp, Waite R. (5 January 2021). Renewing Our Rivers : Stream Corridor Restoration in Dryland Regions. University of Arizona Press. pp. 244–245. ISBN 9780816541485.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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