December 2017


Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

El Paso/Trans-Pecos Audubon Society —   Field trips are open to the public. Information: Mark Perkins, 637-3521 or
  Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Rescue overnight trip is Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 2-3, to look for sandhill cranes and snow geese. Call for details.

Otero Mesa Field Tour — Southwest Environmental Center hosts s free educational outing to Otero Mesa, some of Southern New Mexico’s most stunning wilderness, Saturday, Dec. 2. Transportation and lunch provided; space is limited. Information, RSVP: (575) 522-5552.

Dino Tracks Tour — Insights Science Center host its monthly Dino Tracks tour 1-3:30 p.m.the first Sunday of each month (Jan. 7) at Mt. Cristo Rey in Sunland Park, open to the general public. The tour covers topics such as “Dinosaur & Crocodilian Trace-fossils,” “Volcanism,” “Plate Tectonics,” “Sedimentation & Metamorphic Processes” and more. Cost: $15 per person. Information: 534-0000 or
  The 3-mile hiking tour promotes learning in the STEAM fields: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.

Wyler Aerial Tramway — 1700 McKinley. Information: 562-9899 or 566-6622. 
• A Women-Only is 8 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, up on Directisimo Trail.
• A last Sunday hike is 8 a.m. Dec. 31, up Ranger Peak. Meet in the parking lot for the 1-mile hike.
  Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park is managed by Texas Parks & Wildlife and is also part of Franklin Mountains State Park. To get there: Take Alabama to McKinley and turn toward the mountain.

El Paso Zoo — 4001 E. Paisano. Zoo Entrance hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Zoo admission is $12 for ages 13 to 59; $9 for ages 60 and older and active duty military (including spouse) with ID; $7.50 ages 3 to 12; and free for ages 2 and under. Zoo members admitted free. Information: 212-0966 or
  Santa at the Zoo is 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 9-10, with photos, snow play area, live entertainment and other activities.
  The “Wings of the World” Bird Show is 12:30 p.m. weekdays and 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. weekends at the new Wildlife Amphitheater.
  “Meet The Keeper” talks are 10:30 to 3:15 p.m. at various locations throughout the zoo. Keepers will on  hand to meet with guests, discuss their experiences and talk about the animals.
  “African Star” Train ride tickets are $2 plus tax ($1.50 for children and society members).
  Asian Elephant Training Encounters scheduled at noon daily.
  The El Paso Zoo is a 35-acre home to 228 species of animals. About 420 mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, 106 fish and 294 invertebrates live in a variety of natural habitat exhibits including a Reptile House, South American Pavilion, Americas Aviary, Cisneros Paraje, Birds of Prey Exhibit, Forest Atrium, Asian Grasslands and an Elephant Complex, and the Kalahari Research Station energy exhibit.

Mesilla Valley Christmas Bird Count
— The Mesilla Valley Audubon Society’s 43rd annual Christmas Bird Count is Saturday, Dec. 16. Learn the history and methods of the count, go through a collection of bird photos of likely species, organize CBC teams, distribute maps, bird lists and prepare for the count. Participation is free. Information: (575) 528-8696, or

Cut down your own Christmas tree — Permits are available for people to cut down their own Christmas tree in designated areas of the Lincoln and Gila National Forests in New Mexico through Dec. 24. Limit is one tree — up to 10 feet in height — per household, and the permit includes a map of areas where cutting is allowed.  
  Permits available to purchase for $5 per tree; special permits available for trees over 10 feet.
  Forest officials advise people to check weather and road conditions before entering the forest. Tree-cutters should dress appropriately, take a vehicle suitable for the area and leave information at home where they are going. Maps of tree-cutting areas available at each ranger station.
  Mail-in permit applications are available in El Paso at the Chamber of Commerce, Chamizal National Memorial, and most southern New Mexico communities, and many other locations; allow 7 to 14 days for processing. Applications must be received by Dec. 14. Applications available online at
  Lincoln National Forest; call for hours.
• Alamogordo (Supervisor’s office), 3463 Las Palomas, (575) 434-7200.
• Cloudcroft (Sacramento), Hwy 82 and Curlew, (575) 682-2551.
• Ruidoso (Smokey Bear), 901 Mechem, (575) 257-4095.
• Carlsbad (Guadalupe), 114 S. Halagueno, (575) 885-4181. Not open Saturday dates.
Gila National Forest:
  Trees may be cut from late November to Christmas Eve.
  All offices are open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. 
• Silver City (Supervisor’s Office), 3005 E. Camino del Bosque, (575) 538-2771.
• Mimbres Ranger Station, NM Hwy 35, (575) 536-2250.
• Black Range, 1804 Date St., Truth or Consequences, (575) 894-6677.
• Glenwood Office, Hwy 180 in Glenwood, (575) 539-2481.
  Non-traditional holiday season trees (century plant, agave, and yucca stalks) may be obtained with a Decorative Material permit.

Christmas Tree Recycling — The City of El Paso Environmental Services’ Citizen Collections Sites will accept Christmas Trees Dec. 26 through mid-January. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Trees must be free of decorative items. Information: 212-6000 or
• Westside/Upper Valley, 121 Atlantic
• Central, 2492 Harrison
• Northeast, 4501 Hondo Pass (entrance off Stahala)
• Eastside, 1034 Pendale
  Residents are also encouraged to recycle cardboard gift boxes, wrapping 
paper and cards.

Franklin Mountains State Park — Most hiking and mountain-biking trails begin in the Tom Mays area, off Transmountain Drive on the west side of the park (east of I-10).
  Entry fee is $5 per person, free for age 12 and under (with family). Correct cash or check only. Group rates available. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Information: 566-6441 or on Facebook at FranklinMountainsSP. Web: 
  Guided hikes and bike rides are for a $5 additional fee (free for age 12 and younger). Hikes begin at 8 a.m. Bring water, snacks, sturdy shoes/boots, hiking stick, maps and binoculars. Dogs welcome on leash on some hikes. RSVP required: 566-6441 (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday).
  The 24,000-acre park extends north from the heart of El Paso to the New Mexico state line. The highest point is North Mt. Franklin, 7,192 feet above sea level.

Rio Bosque Wetlands Park — UTEP’s Center for Environmental Resource Management offers free guided walking tours and other activities at Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, 10176 Socorro Rd. in El Paso’s Mission Valley. Tours last about two hours. Information: 747-8663 or 
• Introductory tour is 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3.
• Bird tour is 8 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9.
  Meeting place is a bridge crossing Riverside Canal. Take Americas Ave. (Loop 375) to Pan American Drive, turn left and travel 1.5 miles.

Keystone Heritage Park and El Paso Desert Botanical Garden — 4200 Doniphan (across from Frontera). Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission: $3 (free for members). Information: 584-0563, or
  The park’s 2-acre Botanical Garden, funded by the Rotary Club of El Paso and the Junior League, features native plants, amphitheater, butterfly garden, wedding garden, children’s maze, and a Butterfly House. 
  Keystone Heritage Park has 189 species of migratory and local birds, and a 4,500-year-old archaeological site.
  The site is open for bird watching 9:30 a.m. to noon the second and last Saturday of the month.
  Keystone’s Chihuahuan Desert Experience (immediately west of the wetland) is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for walking and bird watching.

Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site — Ranch Road 2775 off U.S. 62/180 (Montana Ave.). The site is famed for many Native American rock paintings and unique geology. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Admission: $7 (free for children 12 and younger). Admission including tours or hikes is $9 (13 and over); $2 (ages 5-12). Information: 857-1135, ext. 0, or
  Junior Ranger Day activities for kids are 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, to learn about “Turkey Vultures.” No reservations needed.
  A Celebration of Winter is 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, with a luminaria-lit trail, winter solstice stories and hot chocolate. No reservations needed. Entry  closes promptly at 5:30; no exceptions. 
  Bring water, hiking shoes and sunscreen for all daytime events:
Special events (space is limited; reservations required):
• Women’s Only Hike is 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 9. Open to all women.
• Birding hike is 8 a.m. the third Saturday of the month (Dec. 16).
  Reservations are recommended for the self-guided area and for camping: (512) 389-8911.
  North Mountain is available for self-guided day use, for up to 70 people at a time; reservations recommended. There is an annual orientation program for visitors. Guided access is offered to the rest of the site. Picnicking allowed at ten tables closest to headquarters. Wood and charcoal fires are not permitted. Bicycles permitted only on designated paved areas. Pets allowed only in camping or picnic areas. Call for reservations and other information: 857-1135.
  There are campground sites with water and electric hookups, as well as water-only tent sites.

White Sands National Monument
— The glistening gypsum dunes are about 15 miles southwest of Alamogordo, N.M., on U.S. 70. Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Dec. 16; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 17-24, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 26-31. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Dec. 24; 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 26-31. Entrance fee: $5 age 16 and older. Closed Christmas Day. Free for children. Information: (575) 479-6124, ext. 236 or (575) 679-2599, ext. 232; or go to
  Sunset strolls are offered daily one hour before sunset: 4 p.m. through Jan. 5.
  Ranger-guided Lake Lucero Tour is 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 30, to learn about the formation of the sands and the special plants and animals that live in and around the dunes. Program fee is $8 ($4 age 15 and younger); reservations required and available one month prior to tour.
  “Skins and Skulls” mammal identification talks are 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park — 110 miles east of El Paso on the way to Carlsbad, the 86,416-acre park includes the highest point in Texas: Guadalupe Peak, 8,749 feet. Entry fee: $5 for ages 16 and older, good for one week and all trails. Pine Springs Visitor Center hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Camping is $8 per site per night. Information: (915) 828-3251 or
  The Salt Basin Dunes Day Use Area is now open daily 8 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset. Located at the east end of Williams Road, east of Dell City.
  Camping for tents and RVs, a nature trail, and ruins of the Butterfield Overland Mail Station are near the Pine Springs center. McKittrick Canyon Visitor’s Center is seven miles east of Pine Springs, and offers nature, canyon and geology trails. 
  On the north side of the park, accessible by a 110-mile drive around Carlsbad Caverns, is Dog Canyon Visitor Center and Campground.
  One of the best examples of a Permian Period fossil reef, the national park offers camping and more than 80 miles of trails. Hikes range from easy, wheelchair-accessible nature trails to moderate (level, but rocky) canyon hikes to strenuous mountain hikes.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
—  The park is about 160 miles east of El Paso, off the Carlsbad Highway (U.S. 62-180). Information: (575) 785-2232 or 
  Winter hours: Visitor Center open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; tours available 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Last entry into cave via natural entrance is 2 p.m. with last entry into cave via elevator 3:30 p.m. (be in line to exit cave by 4:30 p.m.).
  Plan 3-1/2 hours for a walk-in tour and 1-1/2 hours for Big Room tour of the Caverns. Cost is $10 (free or ages 15 and younger). The park’s audio self-guided tour is $3 extra (also available in Spanish).
  Other guided tours are available; call or check website for details.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument — 44 miles north of Silver City on NM Highway 15 in the middle of the majestic Gila Wilderness, the first and one of the largest wilderness areas. Entrance fee: $5 per person; $10 per family. Information: (575) 536-9461 or
  The trail to the cliff dwellings is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. year-round. Everyone must be off the trail by 5 p.m. Visitor center is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park — 1504 Miehls Drive N., Carlsbad, N.M. Admission: $5 ($3 ages 7-12; free for 6 and under). Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (last entry at 3:30 p.m.). Information: (575) 887-5516. 
   Holiday Bells music performed by The Touch of Joy Ringers is 11 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 2.
  Holidays with the Animals is 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, with children’s activities such as making cards and treats from the zoo’s animal residents.
  Maggie the Bear’s Birthday Party is 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, with face-painting, storytelling, crafts and a piece of birthday cake. Maggie opens her edible gift at 3:30 p.m.
  The zoo features animals native to the Chihuahuan Desert, in natural desert surroundings. A large greenhouse is devoted to succulents and cactus from around the world. The headquarters building includes exhibits on minerals, history, archaeology and other subjects.

New Mexico State Parks — Day-use fee is $5 when visiting any state park. All programs are free with park entrance, unless otherwise listed. Information: (575) 744-5998 or
• Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Information: (575) 744-5923.
  The annual Luminaria Beachwalk and Floating Light Parade is 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9.
• Oliver Lee State Park, Highway 54 south of Alamogordo at the Dog Canyon turnoff. Information: (575) 437-8284.
• Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. 5000 Calle del Norte in Mesilla. Information: (575) 523-4398.
  Audubon Bird Walks are 7:15 a.m. Saturdays, led by park volunteers. Ranger-led Nature Hikes are 2:30 p.m. Sundays.  Fitness in Nature walks with the Second Chance Walker Program are 8:30 a.m. every Saturday beginning at the Visitor Center.
• Rockhound State Park, five miles south of Deming on State Road 11 and then east on Rockhound Road (State Road 141) for nine miles. Day use hours: 7:30 a.m. to sunset. Information: (575) 546-6182 or (575) 744-5998.
  Luminaries Night is 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9. More than 1,000 luminarias light the visitor center, native gardens and labyrinth and roadway.
• Pancho Villa State Park, Columbus, N.M., State Roads 11 and 9. Day use hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Information: (575) 531-2711. 
  Pancho Villa Luminaria Tour and Night Sky viewing is 5 to 7:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9.
Leasburg Dam — 12712 State Park Road in Radium Springs, two miles off Interstate 25 at Exit 19. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for day use. Information: (575) 524–4068.
  Turning Back The Sun Winter Solstice Celebration is noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, with live demonstrations, food samples, night sky viewings and more. See separate listing.
  Discovering the Camino Real at LDSP  The ranger-led hike, exploring why Juan de Oñate and his party left a lush and abundant river valley to begin a treacherous trek across the Jornada Del Muerto, is 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13 and 27, and Saturday, Dec. 23 and 30.
  A First Day Hike is 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 1.
  A “ Geology, Geography and Geothermal” hike is 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10.
• Percha Dam State Park, 60 miles north of Las Cruces on Interstate 25. Information: (575) 743-3942.
• Caballo Lake State Park, 60 miles north of Las Cruces on Interstate 25. Information: (575) 527-8386.
• Bottomless Lakes State Park — 13 miles east of Roswell, N.M. via US 380. Information: (575) 624-6058.
  A First Day Hike is 2 to 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 1.
• Brantley Lake State Park, 12 miles north of Carlsbad via U.S. 285. Information: (575) 887-5516.
  Camping fees at state parks are $8 for primitive site; $10 for developed site (electrical hookup $4 extra).
• City of Rocks State Park, off Hwy 61 in Faywood, N.M., about 130 miles west of El Paso. Information: (575) 536-2800.
  Nature Hike look for birds and wildlife is 8 to 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 30.
  Star Party is 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16.
  A First Day Hike is 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Jan. 1.

Alameda Park Zoo — Alameda Park, 1321 North White Sands Blvd. (U.S. 54/70), Alamogordo. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission: $2.50 ($1.50 ages 3-11 and 60 and older; free for ages 2 and younger). Information: (575) 439-4290.
  The oldest zoo in the Southwest (established in 1898) is part of the park that lines Alamogordo’s main highway. The zoo covers about 12 acres, with about 250 exotic and indigenous animals.

Aguirre Spring Campground — The Organ Mountain recreational area, run by the federal Bureau of Land Management, is off U.S. 70 about 15 miles east of Las Cruces. Fifty-five family camping and picnic sites, plus two group areas. Day-use fee is $3 per vehicle. 
  The Baylor Pass (hiking and horseback riding) and Pine Tree (hiking) trails begin at the campground.
  Information, group reservations: (575) 525-4300.

Dripping Springs Natural Area — The recreational area is at the base of the Organ Mountains at the end of Dripping Springs Road (the eastern extension of University Avenue), about 10 miles east of Las Cruces. The area, run by the federal Bureau of Land Management in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy, includes the A.B. Cox Visitors’ Center, several hiking trails, and La Cueva Picnic Area. October through March the entrance gate is open 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $3 per vehicle. No pets allowed (except for assistance animals). Information: (575) 522-1219.

Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park — The park, part of Asombro Institute for Science Education, is northeast of Las Cruces, off Jornada Road. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Information: (575) 524-3334 or
  To get there: Take I-25 in Las Cruces and head east on U.S. 70. Take the Mesa Grande Road exit (at Oñate High School). Make a U-turn under the highway to head west, and stay in the right lane. Turn right (north) on Jornada Road. Follow Jornada Road for 6.4 miles and turn left at the park sign. Follow the entrance road to the parking area and trailhead.
  Asombro Institute for Science Education is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing scientific literacy by fostering an understanding of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Sitting Bull Falls — The scenic area in the Lincoln National Forest is seven miles southwest of NM 137 on Forest Route 276. The 130-foot falls is one of the highest in New Mexico. Features a picnic area and wheelchair-accessible trails. Entry fee: $5 per car (day use only). Information: (575) 885-4181.

Area hiking websites — A variety of organizations in the El Paso/Las Cruces area offers hiking opportunities. Hikes typically are rated as easy, moderate, or strenuous. Solo or new hikers are welcome.
• offers a variety of groups for all activities, including the El Paso hiking meetup club ( and the Las Cruces hiking meetup club (
• Celebrations of Our Mountains now offers an ongoing calendar of hiking and related events at
• Elpasonaturally is a blog by Jim Tolbert on various environmental topics and includes information about Sunrise Hikers morning events. Information: or
• The El Paso chapter of the Sierra Club posts its hikes at

Chihuahuan Desert Nature Club — Seven El Paso sites participate in the new club helping area residents connect to the location natural environment, and learn more about Chihuahuan Desert area plants and animals. Membership is free to all ages.
  To join,  persons need to visit one of the Nature Club’s Chihuahuan Desert Hot Spots, pick up a flier, and get a stamp. Once  they have visited at least three of the seven participating Hot Spots, show stamped flier and receive an official Chihuahuan Desert Nature Club sticker. Sign up available online at
   Participating locations: Chamizal National Memorial, Don Haskins Recreation Center Nature Trail, El Paso Zoo, Franklin Mountains State Park (Tom Mays Unit), Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, and Wyler Aerial Tramway State Park. Admission fees apply at some sites.

Chihuahuan Desert Resource Institute — The CDRI center and botanical gardens are four miles south of Fort Davis on Hwy 118. Admission: $5 ($4 seniors 65 and older; free children 12 and younger, members). Information: (432) 364-2499 or

Davis Mountains Preserve — The Nature Conservancy preserve is open to the public on designated days, with no admission fee. No pets allowed. All visitors must sign in at McIvor Conservation Center near the preserve’s entrance. Reservations not required for day use, but strongly encouraged for overnight stays: (432) 426-2390, ext. 1 or
  To get there: Take Hwy 118 from Fort Davis to the Lawrence E. Wood picnic area. The preserve gate is about one-quarter mile north of picnic area on left (look for sign).

Chihuahuan Desert Wildlife Rescue — The nonprofit organization that serves West Texas and Southern New Mexico offers resources for those who find a wild bird or mammal in need of help. Information: 772-6011, (575) 882-2910 or
  Uninjured baby birds may be returned to their nest; the mother will not reject them if humans have touched them. If the nest cannot be found, create one with a basket or container with good drainage that can be attached to the tree so the parent bird may find it. If the bird is injured, contact the rescue immediately.

Community Tool Sheds — Keep El Paso Beautiful, in partnership with Paso del Norte Health Foundation, Home Depot and El Paso Fire Department, offers community tool sheds available at area fire stations. The sheds are stocked with push brooms, shovels, rakes, a gas weed eater, gloves and trash bags for use for cleanup or beautification projects. The items may be borrowed for no charge to the public for community cleanup projects. Information: 546-6742.
  Tool sheds are at 5315 Threadgill, 3801 Fort Blvd., 6500 N. Mesa, 7901 San Jose, 11977 Pellicano, 1801 Montana, 6300 Delta and 10834 Ivanhoe.


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