Want to learn more about the history of the Rio Grande Gorge? Since we spend many of our days on the Rio Grande River, the Gorge holds a special place in our hearts. The Rio Grande Gorge is a vast canyon that starts near the New Mexico-Colorado border and stretches over 50 miles ending just southeast of Taos, New Mexico. This impressive geological formation which is well known for its unique whitewater thrills also holds an incredible ecological, historical, and cultural significance to the area.
Naming The Rio Grande Gorge
Historically, the Puebloans and other Southwestern peoples relied on and enjoyed the Rio Grande as much as we do today. Through the gorge walls, there are many places to see petroglyphs or ancient rock art that have been left by people for thousands of years! In the several native languages, there are different names for the river such as Posoge meaning “big” or “great” river in the Tewa language. The name we are most familiar with, Rio Grande, which means “big river” in Spanish, came into use in the early 16th century when the Spanish began occupying the area of Northern New Mexico.
Naturally History Of The Rio Grande
Millions of years ago, this area of New Mexico was undergoing a lot of geological changes such as earthquakes and lava flows which created a valley called the “Rio Grande Rift Valley.” The river followed the path of the valley and over time carved it deeper and deeper to create the gorge we know today.
The John Dunn Bridge
Most people know the John Dunn Bridge as the beginning of the magnificent, full-day Lower Taos Box trip, or maybe as a great place to enjoy the afternoon fishing, rock-climbing, or soaking in hot springs. You would be surprised to know that there was more to the history of the Rio Grande. In the early 1900s this area was also bustling with bars, restaurants, and hotels where people stopped to soak and relax during their long journeys in the West. The bridge you can see today is the third of its kind dating back to the 1930s!
Conservation Of The Rio Grande
In 1968, the Rio Grande was one of the eight rivers included in President Johnson’s original National Wild and Scenic River Act. This conservation designation ensured that rivers protected under the act would be maintained undammed and free-flowing to protect the ecological and historic integrity of the area.
In 2013, the Obama administration created the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument which further protects our beautiful gorge for its historical, cultural, and environmental importance.
Recreation On The Rio Grande
Ten miles northwest of Taos on Highway 64, The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, hovers 650 feet above the gorge giving you some jaw-dropping views.
Located at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Red River, the Wild River Recreation area near Questa, New Mexico provides beautiful overlooks and great hiking trails as you explore the 800-foot gorge.
Orilla Verde Recreation Area near Pilar, New Mexico has great opportunities for boating, hiking, fishing, camping, or even just taking time to relax by the river.
Book a trip with New Mexico River Adventures on the Rio Grande River! Whether you are looking to experience the exhilarating class IV whitewater of the Lower Taos Box or the scenic and relaxing Orilla Verde, let us guide you down the Rio Grande in New Mexico! Rafting the Rio Grande is one of our most popular trips. Families and friend groups from far and wide join us every whitewater season to witness this spectacular river. We hope you will consider joining us and we can’t wait to see you on the river!