The Village of Chama is located in New Mexico, and its population was 1,022 at the 2010 census. The town lies in the Rocky Mountains, seven miles south of the New Mexico-Colorado border. It is also known for its Ghost Ranch. If you’re planning a visit to Chama, there are a few things you should consider.
El Vado Lake State Park
Located in northern New Mexico, El Vado Lake is a reservoir with nearly three thousand acres of surface area. The reservoir was created in 1935 by a dam on the Rio Chama River. It is about five miles long and a mile wide. It sits at an elevation of 6,900 feet.
Visitors to El Vado Lake State Park in Chamo, New Mexico, can enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, and horseback riding in the park’s north section. During the summer, there is also fishing and swimming in the lake, while winter visitors can enjoy skiing and winter activities.
The park is home to a 17-story earthen dam. Though it is nearly 100 years old, it has undergone very few restorations, and is a testament to the engineering and craftsmanship of the time. The lake is filled with salmon and trout most of the year. The park also features a five-and-a-half mile scenic trail that connects to nearby Heron Lake. The area is also a major wintering ground for bald eagles. Winter temperatures range from the low teens to the mid-twentys, which is perfect for observing these majestic birds.
Chama Wild & Scenic River
The Rio Chama is a tributary of the Rio Grande and is a Wild and Scenic River. It starts in the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado and ends at the Rio Grande near Espanola, New Mexico. Its total length is 130 miles. It is a popular rafting destination. It is split into two forks just north of Chama.
The Rio Chama float trip is a beautiful, easy way to experience this river. Depending on the time of year and water levels, you can choose between a half-day or full-day trip. The canyon is surrounded by densely forested side canyons and is part of the Chama River Canyon Wilderness. The lower 8 miles of the river is also designated a Wilderness Study Area.
The Rio Chama has riparian vegetation and water that supports numerous bird species. It is home to ducks, gulls, eagles, and Canada geese. In addition to these birds, the river’s habitat also attracts a number of raptors. Golden eagles and bald eagles nest on cliffs along the riverbank. In addition, Canada geese and blue heron also live in the area.
The Rio Chama is a congressionally designated Wild and Scenic River that flows through the Chama River Canyon Wilderness. It is a popular rafting and fishing river and is an exceptional place for outdoor adventures. It offers a stunning landscape and is a fascinating combination of desert and wilderness.
The Rio Chama Wild & Scenic River designation has been effective in preserving the river and its surrounding areas. This designation has prevented further development and has secured the future of this 31-mile section of the river. Moreover, it has given the river much needed protection from future infrastructure development.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad
When it comes to unique and interesting train trips, the Cumbres & Toltec Scanning Railroad in Chama, Colorado, definitely deserves a mention. This heritage railroad, which is 3 feet narrow, runs on 64 miles of track between Chama, New Mexico, and Antonito, Colorado. It features sights and sounds of yesteryear, such as the roar of steam engines.
The railroad follows the original 64-mile route laid in 1880, and crosses New Mexico and Colorado 11 times. The journey takes passengers through the Toltec Gorge, skirting along the canyon walls, burrowing through tunnels, and climbing up to Cumbres Pass, the highest point reached by a steam railroad in North America. The railroad has been featured in over 40 movies, and is home to the country’s largest collection of narrow-gauge locomotives.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scanning Railroad in Chama offers two types of train rides. One option is a first-class cabin, while the other option is a comfortable coach. The train is open-air, and the narrator from the Friends of the C&TS narrates highlights and views as the train travels through the mountains.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scanning Railroad in Chama is the western end of the line. It begins the scenic eastbound climb through Cumbres Pass and features narrow gauge steam trains putting on a show. The journey takes about three hours and includes dinner, breakfast, and transportation.
During your tour of the Toltec Gorge, the train will travel through the Mud Tunnel and Phantom Curve. The Mud Tunnel was once used for oil well pipe trains, but the railroad built a temporary by-pass in order to keep the train moving. After the Mud Tunnel, the train will pass through the Rock Tunnel, where trains slow down and pass over narrow ledges. From there, the train will follow the Rio de los Pinos river as it climbs through the 600-foot-deep walls.
If you’re a hiker and need an overnight rest in the heart of the Colorado Plateau, you’ll find it at Ghost Ranch in Chama. This historic ranch offers hot meals and real beds in a rustic setting. The site is also perfect for families with children and teens. Although the accommodations are rustic, the hotel’s recent $1.5 million upgrade has increased the level of comfort. There are no televisions or cell service, but guests can enjoy free wireless internet access.
The ranch originally served as a hideout for cattle rustlers, but in the twentieth century it was turned into a Dude Ranch. In the 1930s, Georgia O’Keeffe visited the ranch and bought 12 acres at the edge of the property. In 1936, Arthur and Phoebe Pack purchased the entire 21,000-acre ranch and donated it to the Presbyterian Church. The National Ghost Ranch Foundation was established in 1972 and the ranch is now operated by the nonprofit organization.
Geologically, the Ghost Ranch rocks are made of Late Triassic rock. These rocks are a mix of sandstone and mudstone, with the former overlain by the Painted Desert Member of the Petrified Forest Formation. The latter is a thinly-bedded sandstone unit that is visible from Highway 84.
There are four main quarries at Ghost Ranch. A cottonwood tree stands next to one of them. When visitors go there, they say they hear voices of a man and a woman fighting. This is a relic of a violent event that occurred 2,000 years ago. It is a geologically appealing place to visit.
Ghost Ranch is located just north of Abiquiu, New Mexico. It is open seven days a week and has a welcome center. There are also day tours, camping, and a paleontology museum. There are also longer retreats for those who want to spend more time exploring the ranch. Visitors must pay a $5 conservation fee to enter the property and use its facilities.
Georgia O’Keeffe stayed at Ghost Ranch for days, exploring the sandstone buttes and the surrounding landscape. In addition to her adobe home, you can take a landscape tour at the ranch. The museum offers guided tours four days a week, and you can even stay overnight at the ranch. She was inspired by the landscape of sandstone buttes. You can also ride the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad to the area.