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August 14th & 15th, 2017

Valles Caldera National Preserve

New Mexico's hidden treasure and our favorite place to visit. What is spectacular about the Valles Caldera, preciously known as the Baca Ranch and then the Bond Ranch, is that a major State Highway allows access to the view. The Caldera was purchased in 2000 as a National Preserve under President Clinton.

I hate it when any form of Government acquires private land in New Mexico, as we have so little private property. 67% of the land of NM is already under some form of Government control, leaving only 1/3 of the US's 5th largest state for we citizens to live and have our being. That being said this is one purchase that I agree that demanded to be saved for present and future and generations. It is the second largest Caldera in the US, the largest being Yellowstone NP. Originally, the Baca Ranch was 100,000 acres in size having originated from a Spanish Land Grant, and it is now 87,000 acres in size. Some of the acreage was given to the Pueblo as Sacrate Lands and some to the Bandeliere National Park. 87,000 deeded acres is still a nice sized ranch of 135 sections, but look at these 135 sections. Absolute Beauty of high mountain meadows.

Valle Grande

You are looking across the Valle Grande at one of seven Valles in the Caldera. But this one is the most visible, as for 5 miles along NM 4 the only view is the Valle Grande it is the largest of the Valles.

(if a photograph is marked with a (download) we recommend that you click the world 'download' and view the full screen photo for the details you'll miss in the smaller photo.)


Where are we?

The Valles Caldera is a volcanic crator formed over the last 1.6 millions years with Redondo Peak at 11,350 in the middle. The VCRP is in light green on this map. New Mexico Hwy 4 runs between Jemez Springs and Los Alamos National Laboratories into the Espanola Valley. The Espanola Valley was the first of the Spanish settlements in New Mexico in the 1600's. It is the easiest to view, and yet the least viewed wonder in our state.


We were in Santa Fe over the weekend of July 21st and slipped off and made the drive to the Valles Caldera of some 60 miles just to see the early morning Elk. We caught this herd of some 40 yearling cows in the Valle Grande. They were as curious about us as we were them. I admit that we were expecting to see more than 40, but what beauties these were.




We arrived just before sunup, and the fog accents them in their habitat so well. We stayed with them for an hour or so and are sharing their grazing movement into the valle.

The sun is just breaking light now.




We didn't allow time to drive through the Preserve in July, so we planned another trip and came back in mid August. We had two objectives in mind; foremost was to see the Elk, as I have related that in July we only saw 40 or so, and secondly was to tour the park. It is a 25 mile drive, and we had all day.


The Valles Caldera is the most protected of any National Park we have ever visited. i.e They only allow 25 automobiles into the internal part of the park at any one time. The Park opens at 8:00am and closes at 6:00pm. There is no camping allowed nor are any dogs allowed in the park. One can view and gaze in amazement, fish, hike, park in disseminated places and enjoy. This is pristine beauty in the purest form, and it will be kept in that manner. We all know of the over crowding of our National Parks, well that is not going to happen at the Caldera.

We arrived first in line but had Sammy with us, and were told he couldn't pass the Visitor Center into the park. They were very nice and let us fill out our vehicle pass, which they held for us while we returned to our camper some 20 miles at La Cueva, where we had left Sammy. When we returned there was our vehicle pass waiting for us, so we didn't have to wait until some other visitor vacated the park to enter. Nice!!!

A story about a Lady from Italy.

Dottie met Marta in the parking lot at the Visitor Center, while I was getting our vehicle pass. She was a most charming lady and interesting person. They had come into the US on the East Coast and were spending two weeks traveling across the US. They had been in Santa Fe, and after the Caldera they were making Sedonia for the night, with the next stop being Yosemite. They flew out of the US to return to Italy from San Francisco. How did they pick the Valles Caldera as one of their high lights to visit our Country? I've asked myself this question a hundred times, but neglected to ask her.... darn it. They selected the Caldera as a point of priority of interest in a two week US tour, and 90% of the people in New Mexico have never exposed themselves to this spectacular experience. It seems the Italians are better informed on the magnificent points of interest in the US than we are.

We're sending Marta this travel log, as they could not afford the time to drive the Calderia.

Hello Marta!!!

Cerro Pinon the North End of the Valle Grande


Many years ago we had taken Dottie's mother, Margaret, to Lunch on Mother's Day. We had just purchased a new airplane, and I wanted to shoot some practice landings. I asked the ladies, if they would like to go for an airplane ride. It was a delightful day, and they were excited to go; so we flew to Santa Fe, where I practiced for a hour or so. When we left, I asked them if they would like to fly through the Jemez Mountains. The Lewis family has a long history of living in this area.

We flew by Los Alamos, and then over the Baca Ranch, now the Valle Caldera. I hadn't realized there were so many valleys in the Baca Ranch. We flew over the Valle Grande, then the Sierra Los Valle, the Valley Todedo, and the Valle San Antonio and also sew several other off shoot valleys. We were all totally amazed, So this trip driving the 25 miles through the Valle Caldera brought back a most pleasant Mother's Day memory. By the way my Mother in Law, Margaret Lewis, was a very sweet Mother in Law and very special lady in our lives. +++

Valle Santa Rosa


Valle San Antonio


Valle Seco


West en of Valle San Antonio


East end of the Valle San Antonio


Neighboring cattle grazing in the San Antonio Valle. The Jemez Pueblo has a grazing lease to run some 250 head in the Park, and their herd is now near the south end of the Preserve. This cattle grazing lease is drawn annually by a lottery between the Pueblos.


Valle Los Teledo


Dawn photo of the Valle Grande 003(download)

Now, I must admit we didn't arrive here 30 minutes before sunrise two mornings in a row to take landscape shots. We came to take photographs of Elk. Previously we have seen several thousand elk in this Valle, one thousand? two thousand? or maybe it was three thousand. You couldn't count them, but there were so many the whole Valle Grande was speckled with elk. I had faith they'll be there another morning, we just have to have our timing right the next time we visit.

This is God's splender on display in beautiful Northern New Mexico, so come and spoil your self.


Come on Willie and sing us another verse it's, "Down the Road Again".