February 2020

Nature

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

El Paso Cactus and Rock Club — The club meets 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at El Paso Garden Center, 3105 Grant (Memorial Park), with a presentation on Manuel “Melo” Salazar on Cacti of Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Admission is free. Information: Peter Beste, 755-3558 or elpasodesert.com.

El Paso Zoo — 4001 E. Paisano. Entrance hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (admission gate closed at 4 p.m.). Admission is $12; $9 for ages 60 and older and active duty military (including spouse) with ID, and ages 13-17; $7.50 ages 3 to 12; and free for ages 2 and under. Zoo members admitted free. Information: 212-0966, elpasozoo.org, or on Facebook at ElPasoZoo.
  Now open is the Chihuahuan Desert exhibit and Copper Canyon Challenge Ropes Course. The new exhibit spans 2.3 acres, recreating the native habitat for the animal species that once roamed in the desert southwest. The exhibit will serve as the home for Mexican grey wolves, mountain lions, jaguars, pronghorn, prairie dogs, thick-billed parrots, coati and other smaller species.
  The Copper Canyon Challenge Ropes Course allows guests to climb three stories into the air and get a hawk’s eye view of the entire zoo.
  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.

DinoTracks Tour — Insights Science Center hosts its monthly 3-mile DinoTracks tour on the first Sunday of the month at Mt. Cristo Rey in Sunland Park. Cost: $15 (age 5 and younger free); available at eventbrite; early payment requested; guests can specify if they would like to learn more about animal tracking, dinosaurs, geology or paleontology. Information: 534-0000 or insightselpaso.org.
  Bring water, snacks and sunscreen. Hike is over moderate terrain.
  Tours are 1 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 2 and March 1. Hours change to 9 a.m. to noon beginning in April.

Wyler Tramway Hikes — 1700 McKinley (west of Alabama). Meet at the Tramway to hike up to the observation platform and back down. Hikes are free. Not recommended for first-time hikers. February’s hikes begin at 7:30 a.m., and go to the B36 plane crash overlook, up Directisimo trail, then over Ranger Peak and back (3-3.5 hours). Bring sun protection and wear suitable shoes and clothing. Meet at least 15 minutes before hike.
• Women’s Hike is Sunday, Feb. 2.
• Last Sunday Hike is Sunday, Feb. 23.

El Paso/Trans-Pecos Audubon Society — The society’s annual awards dinner is 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at Hyatt Place Hotel, 6030 Gateway East, honoring Dr. Cesar Mendez, Superintendent of Franklin Mountains State Park. Guest speaker is David Angerstein, who will talk on his experiences in conservation and wildlife rehabilitation in Central and South America. RSVP by Feb. 7: $18 Information: Scott, 581-6071, trans-pecos-audubon.com or on Facebook.
  Nonmembers and beginners are welcome to the society’s field trips. Information: Mark Perkins, 637-3521 or trans-pecos-audubon.com.

Project Drawdown — A free introductory seminar on Project Drawdown and how to get involved is 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at Dorris Van Doren Public Library Branch, 551 Redd Road. Project Drawdown is “a solid plan to reverse climate change due in part to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and using researched and modeled solutions that already exist.” Information: Jerry Kurtyka: 526-6297, jerrykurtyka@gmail.com or drawdown.org.

Scientist Saturday Morning — A scientist from the Asombro Institute for Science Education hosts a day of exploring and learning about the desert through fun activities for all ages 8 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of each month (Feb. 1), at Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park 56501 N. Jornada, in Las Cruces. Admission is free. Information: (575) 524-3334 or asombro.org.

Celebration of Our Mountains — Celebration of Our Mountains provides year-round educational and recreational field trips to places throughout the Chihuahuan Desert, as well as visits to places of historic, scientific and technological interest. Information: celebmtns.org.

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 riobosque.org.
• Birding tours are 8 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 1.
• Introductory tour is 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8.
• Community workday is 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.
  Meeting place is a bridge crossing Riverside Canal. Take Americas Ave. (Loop 375) to Pan American Drive, turn left and travel 1.5 miles.

Feather Lake Wildlife Sanctuary — 9500 North Loop, near Loop 375. The 43.5-acre site is managed by El Paso’s Audubon Society. The sanctuary is currently closed to public use, due to lack of water, but public workdays are scheduled throughout the year. The next public workday is 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8. Information: 545-5157 or 747-8663.

Franklin Mountains State Park — Most hiking and mountain bike 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: tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/franklin-mountains.
  Check website for guided hikes and bike rides. Cost of guided events are $8 per person ($3 State Park Pass holder; $1 children 12 and under); price includes entry. Dogs welcome on leash on some hikes. Reservations required: 566-6441 (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday).
  A “Feet, Feathers, and Wings” event to learn about some of the adaptations birds have undergone is 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, in the Tom Mays unit, hosted by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Guided events fee applies.
  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.

Keystone Heritage Park and El Paso Desert Botanical Garden — 4200 Doniphan (across from Frontera). Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; closed Tuesdays. Admission: $2 (free for members); $1 children. Information: 584-0563, keystoneheritagepark.com.
  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.
  Bird watching with the Trans Pecos Audubon Society is 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 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for walking and bird watching.

Sierra Club — The El Paso Group of the Sierra Club meets at 7 p.m. the fourth Tuesday of the month at the UTEP Centennial Museum. Information: elpasosierraclub.org.

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 texasstateparks.gov.
  Admission including tours or hikes is $9 (13 and over); $2 (ages 5-12). Reservations also 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 Park — The glistening gypsum dunes are about 16 miles southwest of Alamogordo, N.M., on U.S. 70. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Feb. 1; 7 a.m. through 7 p.m. Feb. 2-March 7. Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Last entrance is one hour before closing. Entrance fees are $25 per vehicle; $15 per person, and $20 per motorcycles. Information: (575) 479-6124, nps.gov/whsa or on Facebook.
  Sunset strolls are offered daily: 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. through Feb. 8; 5:43-6:06 p.m. Feb. 9-March 7.
  “Skins and Skulls” mammal identification talks are 3 p.m. Sundays.
  Lake Lucero Tour is 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22. Reservations required.
  Established as White Sands National Monument in 1933, the Tularosa Basin dunes were designated as the nation’s 62nd national park in federal legislation signed into law in December 2019.

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 nps.gov.
  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 nps.gov/cave.
  Visitor Center winter hours are 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.).
Cost is $15 (free or ages 15 and younger).
  Other guided tours are available; call or check website for details.

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 or livingdesertnm.org.
  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.

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park — 5000 Calle del Norte in Mesilla. All events free with park admission, unless listed otherwise. Hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; call for seasonal variations. Day use fee: $5 per vehicle. Information: (575) 523-4398, (575) 740-7499, or nmparks.com.
  From I-10 take Exit 140, follow Avenida De Mesilla south to the stoplight at Calle del Norte and turn right. Go 1.7 miles and turn left onto gravel road immediately past the bridge that crosses the Rio Grande. Follow the gravel road and park signs south, 1 mile to the visitor center parking area.

New Mexico State Parks — Day-use fee is $5 when visiting any state park. All programs are free with park entrance, unless otherwise listed. Dress accordingly for all outdoor hikes and events. Information: (575) 744-5998 or nmparks.com.
• Elephant Butte Lake State Park, Information: (575) 744-5923. Elephant Butte lecture series events are 6 to 8 p.m. selected Wednesdays: “Songs and Sagas of Sierra County” with local history buff Brenda Nelson and musician Mario Portillo (Feb. 5), “The Birds of Elephant Butte” (Feb. 19),“Botany: Nature’s Supermarket” (March 4).
• Oliver Lee State Park, Highway 54 south of Alamogordo at the Dog Canyon turnoff. Information: (575) 437-8284.
  A night sky viewing of The Great Nebula of Orion is 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22.
  Camping fees at state parks are $8 for primitive site; $10 for developed site (electrical hookup $4 extra).

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. Free admission. Information: (575) 536-9461 or nps.gov/gicl.
  Visitor Center hours through Feb. 29 are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed New Year’s Day). Trail is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; visitor must exhibit monument by 4 p.m.

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, or on Facebook at Alameda Park Zoo-AFOTZ.
  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.
  Reptile presentations hosted by the nonprofit group The Island of Misfit Morphs are 1 to 3 p.m. the first Sunday of each month in the Education Center.

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 $5 per vehicle; camping fee is $7. Information, group reservations: (575) 525-4300.
  The Baylor Pass (hiking and horseback riding) and Pine Tree (hiking) trails begin at the campground.

Dripping Springs Natural Area — The recreational area, part of the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks National Monument, 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. Gates open 7 a.m. to sunset April through October and 8 a.m. to sunset November through March. Admission: $5 per vehicle. Leashed pets allowed on some trails. Information: (575) 522-1219.

Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park — ?56501 N Jornada Rd, Las Cruces. The park, part of Asombro Institute for Science Education, is northeast of Las Cruces. Park hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Information: (575) 524-3334 or asombro.org.
  Scientist Saturday Morning events are 8 a.m. to noon the first Saturday of each month to learn about the desert through activities for all ages.
  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.
• Meetup.com offers a variety of groups for all activities, including the El Paso hiking meetup club (meetup.com/El-Paso-Hiking) and the Las Cruces hiking meetup club (meetup.com/jornada-hikers)
• Celebrations of Our Mountains now offers an ongoing calendar of hiking and related events at celebrationofourmountains.org/
• Elpasonaturally is a blog by Jim Tolbert on various environmental topics and includes information about Sunrise Hikers morning events. Information: elpasonaturally.blogspot.com or diegotolbert@gmail.com.
• The El Paso chapter of the Sierra Club posts its hikes at sierraclub.org/elpaso.

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 cdri.org.

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 dsouth@tnc.org.
  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 cdwr.org.
  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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