The Red River, located within the Río Grande del Norte National Monument, is designated Wild and Scenic for its lower 4 lower miles before it joins with the Río Grande. Flowing out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico, the Red River was the head of a smaller Río Grande of ancient times. Scientists believe that some 400,000 years ago, a closed drainage basin with no outflow existed in the San Luis Valley to the north in Colorado. With changes causing the region to become wetter, the lake within this basin overflowed to the south and drained into the Red River. The volume of water continued to increase as it cut through the earth, forming the modern Río Grande Gorge we know today. As a result, the Red River became a tributary and the headwaters of the Río Grande repositioned to central Colorado.
The Wild Rivers Recreation Area is on the mesa above the Red River. Exceptional views of the confluence of the Río Grande and Red River is found at the La Junta overlook in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area.
Recreation opportunities on the river include hiking, sightseeing, fishing, and wildlife viewing. There are developed camping opportunities at Wild Rivers Recreation Area.
A visitor center, camping, and other facilities are available on the mesa above the Red River at the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. Two trails provide access:
• The La Junta Trail is 1¼ miles one-way with an elevation drop of 800 feet. It is a difficult trail that provides spectacular views of and access to the confluence of the Red River and Río Grande.
• El Aguaje Trail is a moderate ¾ miles one-way trail with an elevation drop 560 feet to the Red River.
Location & Access
From Taos, follow NM 68 north 7 miles. Take NM 522 approximately 20 miles to Questa. Travel 3 miles past the stoplight in Questa to NM 378. Turn left onto NM 378 and follow the signs about 12 miles west to Wild Rivers Recreation Area.