Rio Grande Nature Center State Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico offers 270 acres of protected ecosystem comprised of woodlands, meadows, and farmland that visitors can enjoy by hiking, visiting the Nature Center, Visitors Center, and Candelaria Wetlands.
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Rio Grande Nature Center State Park is a day use park open from 8am to 5pm daily and closed on select holidays. The park is found on the Rio Grande flyway and offers excellent wildlife viewing year-round with trail access to the Rio Grande and several overlooking ponds.
The park was founded in 1982 and is managed by the New Mexico state Parks Division and owned by the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division. The Visitor’s Center was constructed the same year as the park establishment and was designed by Antoine Predock. An education building was added in 2011 and the Candelaria Wetlands were opened as part of the State Park in 2001.
Visitors are invited to look at, listen to, and touch the vegetation and wildlife, but are asked to stay on the marked trails and leave behind only footprints. Parking fees to access the park apply; however, the visitor’s center and trails are open to the public free of charge.
The Rio Grande Nature Center is one of the best birdwatching preserves in New Mexico and creates a memorable outdoor, natural experience for visitors of all ages.
Visitor Center- After parking, guests should first stop by the Visitor Center where they will encounter interpretive exhibits educating on the flora, fauna, geology and history of the Rio Grande Nature Center. Exhibits featured in the Discovery Room are meant for hands on exploration by children. There is also an observation deck overlooking the 3-acre pond where visitors can view ducks, turtles, fish, butterflies, and a variety of birds. There are also educational materials available for onsite use in the resource library and trail guides with binoculars that visitors can borrow while enjoying the Nature Center.
Education Building- located at the Visitor’s Center, the Education Building opened in July 2011 and offers 5,500 square feet of educational space to accommodate the 130,000 people that visit the park annually. This building also was constructed to showcase green building techniques including photo-voltaic power panels on the rooftop and being a net-zero energy user. Cisterns are used for water collection and irrigation while all the building materials were acquired through sustainable methods and recycled parts.
Trails-There are 2 trails that are a part of the Nature Center and are considered easy hikes. The Riverwalk Trail is one mile round trip through the Bosque and open meadows while the Bosque Loop Trail is just shy of a mile long and winds through the Bosque down to the river.
Discovery Pond-This pond is used for research and educational purposes only and is accessible to scientists and school groups who want to study the aquatic life and environment at the Nature Center.
Candelaria Wetlands- The wetlands were opened as part of the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park in 2001. The 9 acre outdoor arena as once part of Candelaria Farms and was left overgrown and uncultivated. The area has been repurposed into a wetland’s habitat with 2 ponds covering 5 acres and another 4 acres of open meadow. The area has become home to snow geese and ibis, two species of birds that were not previously found in the Nature Center. The $155,000 project involved the planting of 98 species of native New Mexico plants and riparian vegetation to restore the wetlands habitats that are native to the Rio Grande and have been drastically reduced due to farming and urban development.
Bird Watching- More than 300 species of birds call the Nature Center home with 40 of these species being migratory birds. Ducks and roadrunners are the most populated birds at the Center. Visitors can obtain bird checklists, binoculars and field guides from the visitor’s center.
The Rio Grande Nature Center supports education and provides many classes and activities for children. Wildlife observation hikes, tracking classes, and activities at Discovery Pond, among many other educational opportunities are available at the park and Education Building.
Summer Classes- Available for children age 5-12, summer classes offer week long programs designed to introduce students to the ecosystem of the state park with units on nature, owls, tracking, insects, predators, and reptiles. Classes meet Monday through Thursday mornings and registration is required.
Friday Evening Classes- Offered in Fall, Winter, and Spring, the Friday evening classes educate children and families on the various animals and plants in the Nature Center and Wetlands. Classes are taught by experience educators that have worked in the public-school system.
2901 Candelaria NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87107, Phone: 505-344-7240Albuquerque, New Mexico