Public lands and recreation
A backyard filled with recreational opportunities
FOR THE SUN-NEWS, June 7, 2016 DEBORAH STEVENS
With the great open spaces of southern New Mexico and all of the public land available in the area, it’s easy to get into nature and enjoy life. Did you know that the Bureau of Land Management Las Cruces District manages approximately 5.5 million acres of public land for a variety of multiple uses, including dispersed recreation?
What does dispersed recreation mean to you and me? The sky is the limit. BLM has the open space to fill your calendar with hiking, camping, mountain biking, nature and wildlife watching, off-highway vehicle riding — just to name a few!
Dispersed recreation allows you to be creative, and make spur-of-the-moment plans. Some of the local venues to pique your interest are literally in your backyard. Two examples surrounding the greater Las Cruces area are the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Prehistoric Trackways national monuments. These monuments encompass five mountain ranges — the Organ, Doña Ana, Potrillo and Robledo mountains and Sierra de las Uvas.
Perhaps the signature look of a Las Cruces postcard is the Organ Mountains.
This picturesque landscape has the complete package for an afternoon or day of hiking in the steep and angular mountain range. They include different skill levels of hikes such as Baylor Pass, Pine Tree and Sierra Vista. Rising 9,000 feet from the Chihuahuan Desert floor, the Organ Mountains also offer visitors a venue for an afternoon of wildlife viewing and photography.
Perhaps you’re an archaeology and history buff and want to explore some of the Organ Mountains cultural resources. Two sites, La Cueva and Dripping Springs resort are the perfect spots for learning about the people who inhabited a rock shelter and a sanatorium, respectively, all within about a mile hike from the BLM Dripping Springs Visitor Center. The Prehistoric Trackways National Monument, in the heart of the Robledo Mountains, is an important site for paleontological research. There, deposits of fossilized tracks of prehistoric creatures play a vital role in our understanding of the Permian period. Along with this 5,280-acre area, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument also contains abundant invertebrate fossils waiting to be discovered.
The Doña Ana Mountains to the north of Las Cruces offer outstanding recreation opportunities through numerous pedestrian, equestrian and mountain biking trails nestled in some amazing desert landscapes. The area also offers some limited routes for motorized use, within a short drive from Las Cruces. The distinct geology of the mountain ranges, including rock pinnacles in Organ Mountains, and volcanic, cinder cones, lava flows and craters in the other mountain ranges, is one of the reasons rock climbers also frequent BLM public lands. Another area of geologic interest is Kilbourne Hole, a remnant of an ancient volcanic explosion. Kilbourne Hole was designated a natural landmark in 1975, and is found in a desert basin between the Potrillo Mountains and the Rio Grande in southern Doña Ana County. The crater is between 24,000 and 100,000 years old and measures 1.7 miles long, 1 mile wide and 100 feet deep. With a brief snapshot of dispersed recreation opportunities on 501,610 acres, out of 5.5 million acres total, the BLM public lands are diverse enough to accommodate a vision of outdoor fun and activity. For information on BLM’s public lands, recreation opportunities and trip planning and safety tips, visit www.blm.gov/ nm/st/en/fo/Las_Cruces_ District_Office or like us on Facebook at Bureau of Land Management – Las Cruces District.
Deborah Stevens is the public affairs specialist for the BLM Las Cruces District.