Daily Archives: October 24, 2011

Autumn Color in the Jemez Mountains-Part I

Golden Quaking Aspen

Golden Quaking Aspen

Along with the Sangre de Cristo range 35 miles distant across the Rio Grande valley, the Jemez Mountains form part of the southern Rocky Mountains, which stretch over 2,000 miles north into Canada. The Jemez Mountains contain no great natural landmarks, rather they are a large area of mostly undisturbed forested wilderness, with rocky peaks, meadows, mountain streams, lakes and waterfalls. More unusual features result from past volcanic activity: There are hot springs, sulphurous vents and a caldera, which is a ring of hills comprising the remains of several long-extinct volcanoes. All the mountains form part of the 1.6 million acre Santa Fe National Forest. This area was the the site of the destructive La Concha fire this past summer.

Bosque Bill and I decided to take a trip to the Jemez last weekend to see the fall colors. It was Bill’s birthday, and we thought that that a photo outing combined with a picnic would be a terrific way to celebrate.

Our first stop was at a camping area near the Pueblo of Jemez, which is an independent sovereign nation with an independent government and tribal court system. It is a federally recognized American Indian tribe with 3,400 tribal members, most of whom reside in a puebloan village that is known as Walatowa, a Towa word meaning “this is the place.”

The scenery at this first stop was lovely, although the fall colors were just beginning to show.

Jemez fall colors

The Jemez River and red cliffs.

We saw American Robins in the Rocky Mountain Junipers, feasting on berries.

American Robin in a Rocky Mountain Juniper

American Robin in a Rocky Mountain Juniper

Dark-eyed Juncos foraged on the ground.

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon variety).

Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon variety).

Our next stop was Battleship Rock, a spectacular basalt rock cliff at the confluence of the Jemez River and the East Fork of the Jemez River. An interesting fact about this formation is that the basalt columnar joints are horizontal rather than the much more common vertical joints.

Battleship Rock

Prow of Battleship Rock, surrounded by fall colors.

Fly fisherman near Battleship Rock.

Fly fisherman near Battleship Rock.

Jemez River near Battleship Rock.

Jemez River near Battleship Rock.

Glorious Gambel Oak color near Battleship Rock.

Glorious Gambel Oak color near Battleship Rock.

Before we took the road to Fenton Lake, we stopped to admire this hillside covered in flaming Gambel Oak foliage.

Gambel Oak cover this hillside.

Gambel Oak cover this hillside.

We paused to admire this lovely Mountain Bluebird.

Jemez Fall Color

Mountain Bluebird

On our way to Fenton Lake we stopped at an overlook where we got our first real look at Quaking Aspen and their spectacular golden autumn color.

Golden Quaking Aspen in the Jemez Mountains.

Golden Quaking Aspen in the Jemez Mountains.

Lovely stand of Quaking Aspen at the overlook.

Lovely stand of Quaking Aspen at the overlook.

Another view from the overlook.

Another view from the overlook.

Gambel Oak at the overlook in the Jemez Mountains.

Gambel Oak at the overlook.


We stopped and ate a lovely picnic lunch at Fenton Lake. We were joined by two Steller’s Jays …

Steller's Jay, Fenton Lake, Jemez Mountains, New Mexico.

Steller's Jay

… and this cute little Least Chipmunk.

Least Chipmunk, Fenton Lake, Jemez Mountains, New Mexico.

Least Chipmunk

Everywhere we went we were surrounded by gorgeous fall color.

Quaking Aspen, Jemez Mountain, Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico.

Quaking Aspen grove.

In Part II of this post I will show you what we saw on our return trip.

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