I bought a New Mexico annual camping pass and am continuing to get my money’s worth, now up at 7,400 feet in the Zuni Mountains of west-central New Mexico, maybe 80 miles west of Albuquerque on I-40. We’ve been staying here a few days and really enjoying the late spring weather. It’s 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit every night this time of year. We knew about this park because we have visited it several times over the years – here’s a photo of two-year-old Fiona playing mountain lion back in 2007.
Bluewater Lake is a reservoir – probably built during the Depression – which the game and fish department stocks with cutthroat trout and channel catfish. Since fishing lakes are few and far between in this arid region, many of the campers here are towing fishing boats, and hard to find during the day here in the campground. The water level has been low the three times we’ve been here, but because it’s formed in such a steep canyon, there’s plenty of deep water for the fish to hide in.
The park itself dates from 1955, so don’t expect up-to-date amenities. There are a few electric sites, and water and a dump available on the main drag, plus a bathhouse, but most of the sites are the picnic table and fire ring variety. We don’t mind, we don’t really need anything else. The advantage of it being an older park, of course, is that all the campsites are widely dispersed among the pinon pines and juniper trees on a promontory between the lake and a canyon with a creek leading down to the lake. Lots of elbow room, and no neighbor problems.
The Zuni Mountains are the southern edge of the San Juan Basin, aligned east-west just south of I-40. The Zuni Pueblo is a bit further west, and El Morro, a historic site where people including native tribes, conquistadors, and Anglo settlers have been carving their names into a sandstone wall for thousands of years, is to the east, as well as the Bandera Volcano and Ice Caves. The Acoma Pueblo and Sky City is also to the east, right on I-40.
7,400 feet is fairly high up, so you see huge ravens and bluebirds – the all-blue mountain bluebirds as well as the regular western bluebirds. Here’s a fuzzy photo I took through my passenger door window of a male mountain bluebird (bottom center)and a male western bluebird (upper right, with orange breast) exchanging words, while the females on the left look on. This ruckus ended with the mountain bluebird running the other one off, and commencing to sweet talk the females. It IS spring, after all.
There are primitive paths going all over, down to and around the lake, as well as into the canyon formed by the creek leading down to the lake. Geologically, this is all Triassic and Jurassic sandstones, siltstones, and mudstones overlaying Permian limestone, which is exposed along the canyon walls. Caves and sinkholes were formed as the limestone was karsted, a fancy word for groundwater dissolving the limestone and hollowing out passageways through it.
One thing about being at 7,400 feet in early May – you need to watch the weather. Everything has been warm and sunny so far, but a front is blowing through tomorrow with snow showers forecast. It doesn’t take much snow to run me off, so we are outta here, headed west in the morning.