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Caja del Rio

Caja del Rio (Spanish: "box of the river"; also known as the Caja, Caja del Rio Plateau, and Cerros del Rio) is a dissected plateau in New Mexico (United States), that lies between Santa Fe and the Rio Grande. In turn, the Rio Grande passes through White Rock Canyon between Caja del Rio and the Pajarito Plateau. Originally part of that plateau, the Caja was divided from it by means of headward erosion as the Rio Grande cut through the plateau and on northward into the Espanola Valley. The Caja, east of the Rio Grande, extends about 12 miles (19 km) north to south and 5 miles (8 km) east to west. Its entire rim is steep, and varies in height from about 50 feet to 800 feet, depending on the extent of erosion of the surrounding terrain. The east rim lies 10 miles (15 km) west of Santa Fe and the west rim forms a side of the scenic White Rock Canyon. Major types of vegetation on the Caja are piñon juniper forest and shortgrass meadows.

File:CajaHQ-1.JPG
Livestock corrals at the Headquarters trailhead

The Caja has been managed for many years by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, both of which lease grazing rights. Consequently, the Caja has numerous fence lines, gates, water tanks for use by cattle, trails, and trailhead corrals. Many of these improvements are decrepit and the meadows are severely damaged by overgrazing, with abundant cholla. From 2004, the Caja has been the focus of a grass roots campaign to develop recreational trail uses, not in place of grazing but in addition to it. It is used primarily by mountain bike and horse riders.[1]

Contents

History

Geologically, the Caja del Rio shares the history of the Pajarito Plateau, specifically of the Cerros del Rio Volcanic Field.[2] Culturally, it was the subject of a Spanish Colonial land grant in 1742 which overlapped both the Cochiti Pueblo grant and a second Spanish Colonial grant.[3]

Features

Volcanic field

The volcanic field is monogenetic and has about 60 cinder-spatter cones and associated lava flows on the caja, formed 2.7–2.3 million years ago.[2]

The southern tip of the Cerros del Rio Volcanic Field is separated from Caja del Rio by the canyon of the Santa Fe River. South of that canyon, the volcanic field is part of a separate land grant, the Mesita de Juana Lopez Grant. Crossing that grant, Interstate I-25 drops off the volcanic field down a high escarpment known as La Bajada (descent), into the central Rio Grande valley across land belonging to Santo Domingo Pueblo. At the descent, in geological terms, the highway crosses La Bajada fault into the Santo Domingo Basin. The southern portion of the Caja del Rio, north of the Santa Fe River canyon, is also known as La Bajada Mesa.

Wild horses

The United States Forest Service has designated Caja del Rio a Wild Horse Territory,[4] and manages a herd of mustangs there. A separate band of feral horses in the vicinity is not managed; its members are thought to be domestic horses recently turned loose to fend for themselves.

Diablo Canyon

On the north rim is a popular local rock climbing area, Caja del Rio Canyon (known locally as Diablo Canyon),[5] with an undeveloped but very large parking area at its east end. The canyon walls include impressive trap rocks. The flat, sand bottom of the canyon, although subject to spectacular flash floods during the summer monsoon season, opens into Cañada Ancha, a broad sand wash. The wash is a scenic and easy route from Diablo Canyon to the Rio Grande in White Rock Canyon. The wash is popular with horse riders.[6] From the parking area, Buckman Road (dirt) avoids Diablo Canyon by passing around the isolated butte forming its north wall, and runs parallel to the wash all the way to the river.[7] Historically, this was a major transportation route between Santa Fe and the Pajarito Plateau; at the mouth of Cañada Ancha the Rio Grande is broad and can be forded in some seasons. Here, formerly, there existed a logging town and depot of the narrow gauge Chili Line.

This canyon was a filming location for the 2007 film 3:10 to Yuma.

Rio Grande Trail

The proposed Rio Grande Trail, if it extends north of Bernalillo, may pass along the base of Caja del Rio.

Caja trails

The northern Caja has around 100 miles of mapped trails,[8] including several loop trails of sufficient length to accommodate endurance rides. One mapped trail leads from the rim down to the Rio Grande. Other trails exist but are not mapped, primarily because their condition makes them unsafe for average trail users.

See also

  • Cochiti Dam
  • Rio Grande Rift
  • San Ildefonso Pueblo
  • Bandelier National Monument
  • Los Alamos County, New Mexico
  • Santa Fe County, New Mexico
  • Northern New Mexico

External links

References

  1. nnmha.com: Caja Trails Project, accessed 2008.06.17
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sawyer, David A., Ralph R. Shroba, Scott A. Minor, and Ren A. Thompson (2002) U.S. Geological Survey Miscellaneous Field Studies Map MF-2352, Geologic Map of the Tetilla Peak Quadrangle, Santa Fe and Sandoval Counties, New Mexico Version 1.0 download
  3. Brayer, Herbert Oliver (1979) Pueblo Indian Land Grants of the "Rio Abajo," New Mexico, Ayer Publishing, ISBN 040511320X, 135 pages, page 118–120.
  4. fs.fed.us: Caja del Rio Wild Horse Territory, accessed 2008.06.17
  5. LosAlamos.com: Diablo Canyon, accessed 2008.06.17
  6. Smith, Una (2008) New Mexico Horse Trails The Horsemen's Voice April 2008, page 12
  7. Martin, Craig (2002) 100 Hikes in New Mexico, pages 28–30.
  8. Monroe, Deirdre C. (2006) Caja del Rio, Santa Fe, New Mexico: Equestrian, Riding and Hiking Trails, Santa Fe National Forest, Otowi Crossing Press, Los Alamos, New Mexico.


Coordinates: Template:Coord/input/dms



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