7 Wet Wonders: Where The Water Is

Where The Water Is

6 min read
7 Wet Wonders
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Blue Hole

Julia Minamata juliaminamata.com
New Mexico’s generally a dry state. Like, really dry. But in Santa Rosa, which is just two hours directly east of Albuquerque on I-40, you can finally make use of all that scuba gear. The town holds Blue Hole, a remarkably clear natural pool that’s 80 feet deep with a constant water temperature of 64 degrees. It’s a scuba oasis. There are half a dozen other lakes in the area, too, with fishing, water-skiing and boating, but Blue Hole’s the one you want. (Christie Chisholm)


All true New Mexicans know the Jemez Mountains, between Albuquerque and Los Alamos, have some of the best camping spots around. Not only are they sprinkled with verdant valleys and gurgling streams, they also hold Soda Dam, a natural barricade to the Jemez River that froths and bubbles like a carbonated drink and creates multicolored swirls on the surrounding rock. And guess what? You can swim in it. The dam is less than a mile away from the small town of Jemez Springs, which has a handful of other hot springs, some of which are utilized by spas. If you still have it in you after all that soaking, Battleship Rock isn’t far away, just a little more than 5 miles south of the Jemez Ranger Station on Highway 4. The 200-foot-tall behemoth, naturally molded from volcanic ash, towers over a picnic area. Hiking and fishing aren’t far off. Don’t try climbing old Battleship, though, and beware of poison ivy. (Christie Chisholm)

Heron Lake State Park

Heron is a dedicated quiet lake: Boats can’t operate at wake speeds, making it safe for stress-free swimming, sailing and canoeing. It also means no motor noise to disrupt relaxation. With campsites—from primitive to fully developed—in several places around its perimeter, it’s easy to get a space that’s fairly secluded and right on the water. Rolling green hills surround Heron in Los Ojos, and the area bristles with more trees than most New Mexico lakes; almost every campsite has shady patches. Picnic tables, grills and hiking trails abound. An elevation of 7,200 helps keep camping cool, even in summer months. (Summer Olsson)

Riverwalk Recreation Center

I grew up in New Mexico, so the first time I encountered the cool, green urban paradise that Carlsbad has created—damming the Pecos River as it flows through town and building a beach, grassy park, and series of recreation centers and picnic areas—I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. This much water, this many trees and this much grass is awfully hard to find anywhere else in our state. In the middle of a big town, in easy access to everyone? No way! I’m still amazed. (Jerry Ortiz y Pino)

The San Juan River

Starting in Colorado, the beautiful San Juan flows for more than 300 miles. Some stretches are fast and popular for rafting, but much of the river is warm and slow. Near Aztec, the water harbors abundant trout and is known for the best fly-fishing in the state. There are campsites on some sections of the river, often bordered by thick greenery and bright red-orange rock outcroppings. We’ve heard rumors that spontaneous swimming in the San Juan is especially good between Mexican Hat, Utah, and Shiprock, N.M.—but please make sure you don’t trespass. (Summer Olsson)

Truth Or Consequences

T or C has steadily transformed itself from a hippie destination to a serious spa community. Numerous hotels, private bathhouses, art galleries and upscale cafés now dot the tiny, central-New Mexico town. Doesn’t a grande mocha and a soak in a mineral hot spring sound relaxing right about now? (Devin O’Leary)

Rio Grande Gorge

For those who love nothing more than to gorge on awe-inspiring scenery, look no further than the Rio Grande Gorge. Carved by the river’s rolling rapids, the steep canyon cuts a scar across the northern New Mexico landscape 800 feet deep. You can gaze over it from the rim or from the many hot springs tucked along the river. Stagecoach Hot Springs, also called Manby Hot Springs, offers a perfect vantage point for taking in the steep canyon’s walls, as well as an opportunity to soak in mineral-rich pools so close to the river you can reach over and dangle your hand in its swift current. Featured in Easy Rider, the springs take their name from Arthur Rochford Manby, a wealthy schemer who attempted to illegally take ownership of the springs in 1906. He was found decapitated in the stone house he built over the springs, parts of which still remain. His headless ghost is said to wander nightly through Taos and the clothing-optional springs, adding yet another restless spirit to the banks of the storied river. (Maren Tarro)

Julia Minamata juliaminamata.com

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