Rio Grande Gorge featured post

Rio Grande Gorge will blow your mind

The stunning Rio Grande Gorge

The Rio Grande Gorge stuns drivers approaching it. The bridge seems to come from nowhere. One moment, you’re driving on fairly flat terrain. The next moment, you’re approaching a bridge over a gash in the earth. The bridge’s structure is mostly below grade and isn’t very visible until you’re almost on the bridge.

The bridge is in nowhere. Just a bridge, some parking, and a rest area/visitors center. No town, no houses, just a span over a gash in the earth.

And what a gash it is.

Rio Grande Gorge: A spectacular site

Coming from Taos, I crossed the bridge and parked at the rest area on the west side of the gorge. When I exited the car, I heard a siren blaring. My head whipped around until I saw the source of the commotion. Pilot cars had turned on their lights and sirens as a house crossed the bridge on a semi. That was quite a sight.

The house crossing the bridge is nothing compared to the gorge beneath the bridge. US Road 64 runs 2,326 miles from North Carolina to a spot in Arizona just southwest of the Four Corners. Probably no spot in that 2,326-mile stretch is as spectacular as Rio Grande Gorge.

The Rio Grande Gorge is a scientific experience

Unlike the Colorado River, which dug the Grand Canyon, the Rio Grande did not form its own gorge. The gorge is actually a rift valley, formed by the North American and Pacific plates scraping each other. Instead of the river digging a valley, this river flowed into already-existing rift. In fact, much of the river’s course flows through a series of basins stretching from southern Colorado to El Paso, Texas. This rift marks the edge of the Colorado Plateau.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”15323″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” lazy_loading=”true”][vc_column_text]

Rio Grande Gorge is a spiritual experience

Seeing the gorge is a truly spiritual experience.

Knowing the facts about the gorge helps the visitor understand what she is seeing, but a set of facts don’t convey the awe-inspiring nature of the slash in the earth’s surface. The slash in the surface must be seen, must be felt to be truly experienced. Peering into the earth’s interior is like inspecting the forces of creation. It’s like gazing into the deeps of time. It’s like seeing the hand of God at work.

How to photograph the gorge

Photographers standing on the bridge's viewing platform
Viewing platform on the bridge

New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) has helpfully provided viewing areas on the bridge. When shooting from the bridge, please use these viewing platforms.

Pedestrians will thank you for not getting in their way. Shooting from the platforms is also far less dangerous than standing near the edge of the roadway.

Don’t limit yourself to standing on the bridge. Take the trail away from the bridge, which will also take you away from the fences immediately around the bridge pilings.

People, vehicles and the bridge itself will help you give scale to the gorge’s 650-foot depth and the bridge’s 1,280-foot span.

Blue sagebrush
Blue sagebrush on the West Rim Trail

See more on the West Rim Trail

Please don’t fixate on the bridge. The gorge and bridge are not the only photographic opportunities. Look for the sagebrush on the West Rim Trail headed away from the gorge. It smelled so good, like turkey on Thanksgiving Day. Too bad WordPress has no smell-o-vision plugin.

Unfortunately, daylight does not last forever. The darkness was overtaking me and I had little time to explore beyond the bridge area. As I’ve learned, any missed opportunity is an opportunity to return. So, reluctantly, I turned toward Santa Fe, hoping one day to visit the gorge again and walk the trail.

Don’t jump!

Sadly, at least one person each year has chosen to end their lives by jumping from the bridge. NMDOT has added suicide hotline phones on each viewing platform. To use the device, push a red button and talk to a counselor.

If you’re reading this and feel your life is unbearable, don’t jump! Ending your life is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Please don’t do it. Your life is valuable! You are worth loving and saving!

If you need help, please call someone you trust or the suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255.

How to visit the gorge

The gorge is 11 miles northeast of Taos on US Highway 64. The trip from Taos requires about 18 minutes.

I was staying in Santa Fe. That trip took an hour and a half in a driving rainstorm. The lightning did a great job of illuminating the scene, but only when the lightning wasn’t blinding me.

I wouldn’t have missed it.

Learn more

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