Río Chama

(nr Chama NM)
The Río Chama flows out of the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado into northern New Mexico and empties into the Río Grande around Española NM. These photos were taken along the portion near the village of Chama and Heron Lake.

Río Chama

From its headwaters at nearly 11,000ft it descends to about 5,600ft as it reaches the confluence with the Río Grande. Surely, in other areas the river takes on differing characteristics. For example, near Heron Lake it cuts a pretty deep gorge.

Stony Section
Flowing Under a Wooden Bridge

Along its 130 miles journey, it has been dammed to form Heron Lake, El Vado Lake, and Abiquiú Lake (lakes actually being reservoirs). Each of them provide recreation including, hiking, boating, fishing, and camping.

Muddy Shallow
Passing Through a Gorge

North of Abiquiú, it passes through the wild and scenic Río Chama Canyon Wilderness often between 900 to 1,500ft deep in some places, and Class II rapids which makes it popular for rafting, and remote riverside camping.

Camp: Heron Lake SP-Brushy Pount CG drycamp
Scene: River, rocks, trees

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4 Responses to Río Chama

  1. John J Larner August 19, 2021 at 11:35 am #

    Would love to get a horse and ride that whole area…if I was 20 years younger….

    • Pleinguy August 19, 2021 at 12:43 pm #

      I feel the same way. Hope all is well.

  2. Lee August 19, 2021 at 8:57 pm #

    We haven’t been to New Mexico State Parks since they started the Covid restrictions last year, but your pictures are making it look mighty tempting again. Your blog may be JUST enough to get us hitting the highway heading south soon.

    Interesting point: Heron Lake is not actually on the Chama River. It’s located above the river valley. Instead, it is filled (or at this time, NOT filled) by a tunnel under the Continental Divide from Colorado. The water from the tunnel dumps into a channel on the New Mexico side, and then flows down to Heron Lake. When the water exits Heron, then it does run into the Rio Chama. Too bad I remember things like that, but not anything important.

    • Pleinguy August 19, 2021 at 10:42 pm #

      You are correct about how water goes into Heron Lake. I forgot about that. However, it is adjacent to the river, as you stated. Hope you get to enjoy camping again, despite the restrictions. Be advised that most campsites in the NMSPs now require an advance reservation. Check ahead for availability at the park you want to visit.

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