Rio Grande Nature Center State Park, Albuquerque

#7 of 22 in Parks in Albuquerque
State Park · Hidden Gem · Nature / Park
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The Rio Grande Nature Center State Park is a New Mexico State Park located adjacent to the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. The Rio Grande Nature Center is a 38-acre urban wildlife preserve established in 1982. About two thirds of the grounds of the Park are set aside as habitat for wildlife. The remaining acreage contains a visitors center, two gardens, several wildlife viewing areas, an education building and a building housing the non-profit Wildlife Rescue, Inc. There are four constructed ponds which provide habitat for birds and other wildlife and which mimic wetland features of the historical flood plain of the Rio Grande.

Visitors to the Rio Grande Nature Center may watch wildlife from viewing blinds overlooking two of the ponds as well as from feeding stations in the gardens and along the trails through the grounds of the Park. Visitors also use the Park as a stepping off point for visiting the Rio Grande and surrounding riparian forest, or bosque, as it's locally known. A round-trip walk to the river and back on either of the loop trails associated with the Rio Grande Nature Center is about one-half mile from the parking lot. Visitors may also walk through the bosque north and south from the Park along most of its 20-mile length.

Regular programming at the park includes: guided bird and nature walks, lectures, workshops, kids classes and three annual festivals. Thousands of students from around New Mexico visit the Park on field trips each year. Visitors from all over the world seek out the Park each year as both a birding hotspot and to experience the unique visitors center, designed by architect, Antoine Predock. The visitor center:

"...acts as a unobtrusive ‘blind’ affording visitors discrete panoramic views of the wildfowl areas. Seen from the main approach, the berms and bunker-like perimeter structure of rough-formed concrete blend into the wooded environment.

There is an element of ‘river-edge vernacular’ to the building; an 8-foot diameter, corrugated drainage culvert forms and frames the tunnel entry into the center. Upon entering, visitors become aware of the salient feature of both the preserve and the building: vertical, 8-foot-high, water-filled tubes encircle a sunken, ramped exhibit and viewing area. Light shimmers through these tubes from skylights to create an underwater effect. The ramp descends physically and symbolically to allow views of the vast forage areas, the marshlands and a reverse-periscope underwater image of the pond. At each stage along the ramp, interpretive displays augment the views; similarly, the exhibits complement interpretive trails which lace the refuge."
Features of the visitors center include the library/observation room overlooking one of the Park's ponds; exhibits which familiarize visitors with the Middle Rio Grande bosque ecosystem; the Discovery Room, full of educational and entertaining activities for kids; the Nature Shop, operated by the Friends of the Rio Grande Nature Center to benefit the Park; and the Park's headquarters.

The Park is home to many species of flora and fauna including, most prominently, the Rio Grande Cottonwood. Animals observed at the park include: over 300 species of birds; mammals including desert cottontail, rock squirrel, North American porcupine, muskrat, coyote, Botta's pocket gopher, American beaver, raccoon, skunk, long-tailed weasel and many species of small mammals; reptiles and amphibians such as painted turtles (aquatic), box turtles (terrestrial), Woodhouse toads, whiptail lizards and coachwhip snakes; lastly about 40 species of dragonflies and many other fascinating invertebrates. Friends of the Rio Grande Nature Center volunteers are engaged in several different projects: restoration and gardening for wildlife, monitoring for aquatic insect and bird species, monthly water quality monitoring, and educational work about the bosque ecosystem.

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Rio Grande Nature Center State Park reviews

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267 reviews
  • We visited specifically for birding-we were not disappointed. Lots of great walking and biking trails 
    We visited specifically for birding-we were not disappointed. Lots of great walking and biking trails  more »
  • There are several trails in the park, and we enjoyed a couple of them. Can say that we saw the Rio Grande. Reasonable fee for parking. 
    There are several trails in the park, and we enjoyed a couple of them. Can say that we saw the Rio Grande. Reasonable fee for parking.  more »
  • We just went yesterday, and must say. It is gorgeous and very peaceful. Not much to see this time of year, but for us that wasn't an issue. We just needed somewhere quiet along our road trip that wasn't a bustling street or snow covered mountain. Did see a few different birds, sadly no cranes or porcupines in the trees. But really enjoyed the long trails around the park, and the large bike path as well. You cannot have dogs or bikes in the actual nature centre area, it must be across the bridge and into the park. It does cost $3 for parking all day, not at all costly considering you're helping fund a safe habitat and education centre. I'm certain in the spring and summer it is extraordinary, since there is a pollinator garden, the river and channel both are lined with cottonwood trees and brush, and there is a possibility of many types of birds migrating through. The visitor center has great information, small and quaint we enjoyed speaking with the older gentleman working there. Definitely recommend stopping in.
  • Delightful in all seasons, with many avian viewing spots, notably a climate-controlled glassed-in overlook to view so you can view many bird species. Visitors center & many nearby trails.

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