Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico
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New Mexico
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Geographic Overview

Geographic Overview

New Mexico's public lands showcase the beauty and solitude of the desert, Great Plains, mountains of the continental divide, and basin and range country of the great Southwest. Panoramas unfold beneath spring sunrises and winter sunsets, creating a photographer's paradise. Topography varies greatly on BLM-managed public lands in New Mexico, providing a wide range of recreation environments and conditions.

The eastern third of New Mexico is generally covered by the Great Plains. The Great Plains run from high plateaus in the north, south to the Pecos River Valley. South of the Canadian River, along the eastern edge of New Mexico, the land is referred to as the High Plains which the Spanish referred to as the “Staked Plains,” (or "Llano Estacado"). These High Plains run along the Texas border to the east and grade into the Chihuahua Desert in the south.

In the central part of New Mexico, the Rocky Mountains extend into New Mexico from Colorado to the north, creating the continental divide, which extends south into Mexico. The Rio Grande River cuts through the Rocky Mountains from north to south. To the west of the Rio Grande are the Nacimiento and Jemez Mountain ranges. The fertile Rio Grande Valley provides suitable farm land using modern irrigation techniques. This valley also contains numerous fascinating pre-historic sites and was the gateway for Spanish exploration and settlement of New Mexico.

The basin and range region of New Mexico covers about one-third of the state and lies to the south of the Rocky Mountain Region. This region extends from Santa Fe in the north, south to Mexico, and west to Arizona. This area is marked by rugged mountain ranges, such as the southernmost Guadalupes, Mogollon, Organ, Sacramento, and the northern San Andres Mountain ranges, separated by numerous desert basins. The Rio Grande River flows north to south -- through the basin and range region and exits New Mexico in the south and forms the border between Texas and Mexico.

Collectively, all these geologic features, wide open spaces, and archaeological resources, chronicle millions of years of geologic history, and thousands of years of Native American occupation and Spanish settlement. They also create a 13 million-acre playground, education resource, and rejuvenation area waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by the American public today!

Map of New Mexico

BLM New Mexico’s outdoor recreation activities are as diverse as the landscape and cultures of the state. Almost all of this land is open for recreational use, such as hiking, hunting, fishing, camping and much more.

Take a tour of the recreation activities available on public lands in New Mexico and see what you would like to do!