Pew Charitable Trusts
The United States Congress designated the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness (map
) in 2014 and it now has a total of 44,372 acres
All of this wilderness is located in New Mexico
and is managed by the Forest Service.
The Columbine-Hondo Wilderness is a wild mountain basin, located in the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These mountains were pushed up around 20 million years ago, and are one of the youngest mountain ranges on earth. The northern boundary, along the Red River, sits at the base of a now extinct super volcano known as the Questa Caldera, which is said to have erupted 26 million years ago. The Columbine-Hondo contains the headwaters of the Rio Hondo and Red River, both major tributaries of the upper Rio Grande in northern New Mexico, that provide surface water for the downstream agricultural communities of Valdez, Arroyo Hondo, Arroyo Seco, San Cristobal, and Questa. The lush forests and alpine meadows of the Columbine-Hondo are home to abundant Rocky Mountain wildlife, such as mule deer, elk, black bear, and mountain lion. Above treeline, New Mexico's prized herd of bighorn sheep, along with marmots and pica, can be seen in a fragile alpine tundra habitat. The Columbine-Hondo shares a long multi-cultural history with the people of New Mexico. Paleo-Indians walked these mountains 11,000 years ago, and evidence of the earliest stone tools come from nearby Folsom and Clovis, NM. The Ancient Pueblo cliff dwellers of the Four Corners region migrated to the Taos Area roughly 1,100 years ago, making Taos Pueblo the oldest continuously inhabited dwelling in North America. Nomadic Kiowa, Ute, and Apache explored and hunted the area for almost as long. Spanish settlers since the 16th century used the area for seasonal sheep grazing and depend on the area's surface water for traditional agriculture. The trails of the Columbine-Hondo are part of an historic trail system to commemorate the New Mexico Gold Rush from the late 1800s into the turn of last century. In the 1930s artists like Georgia O'Keefe and writers like DH Lawrence moved the area for its outstanding natural beauty and solitude.