There is a very large hole in northern New Mexico. A circular depression in the earth that covers some 13 miles in width. It is Valles Caldera, formerly known as Valle Grande. Now part of the National Park Service, its official name is Valles Caldera National Preserve. From NM Highway 4 via Los Alamos, or U. S. 550 through Jemez Springs to NM 4, at first glance, you might not even see anything other than a lower, grassy spot with volcanic plugs, cones, and other features surrounding it. But according to the Park Service, when you stand anywhere in the middle, "you are standing in a sunken volcano. Its eruption 1.25 million years ago was 300 times larger than Mt. St. Helens in 1980." To say it altered New Mexico's landscape radically is an understatement. "Ejected ash fell as far as Kansas, Utah, and Wyoming". Not to mention what happened to the immediate area. Cerro La Jara is a tree-covered small, broad bump (hardly the technical term) in the right middle of the photograph below. There is an easy trail walking trail that surrounds it. By walking it, you begin to get a feel for how big the area is, and how you really are in a huge basin.
We New Mexicans appreciate all water features. The East Fork of the Jemez River, which some from the wetter parts of the country might call a creek, runs through the caldera. The image below is looking east.
Looking west along the river, you will notice other volcanic features.
Grasses being laid down by the water in the East Fork of the Jemez River.
Coots and their chicks take advantage of the water.
I suspect many of you reading this have hiked extensively in the caldera, whereas my experience is relatively new and limited. But it is an extraordinary piece of New Mexico. With luck, you will be able to visit, walk, and hike Valles Caldera at some point in the future.
Thanks to Lawrence, Victoria, Barbara F. R., Jean & Sam, Marilyn G., Earle, Lisa S., Steve, and Catherine for following along and commenting last week!
until next Monday,
a passion for the image©