Red River flows
westward, from Questa, by the Red River state fish hatchery.
Stockers are caught in the river from NM 522 to the hatchery.
The aquatic insect life is meager but is returning as described
in the "Upper Red River" watershed description.
The Red River state fish hatchery is a 2-mile drive to the end
of NM 515. Red River is fed by several springs,
its way to the Rio Grande, which keeps the water temperature
constant year-round. Down stream of the hatchery, Red River
closes into the box canyon at an elevation of 7,000 feet. From
this point there are deep pools, deep runs, and pocket water
predominate. There are many large boulders that create eddies
and great holding areas for trout. There is considerable
vegetation along the banks of the canyon, such as trees bushes
and tall grasses, but is easily fishable. Red River is very
picturesque as you can see to the left with numerous deep runs
and deep pocket water. When you use nymphs be sure to fish them
Three miles later the Red
converges with the Rio Grande at an elevation of 6200 feet.
About half-way from the hatchery and the confluence of the Red
and Rio is a very tall canyon wall on your right where you must
cross the river to continue to fish. This is where the fishing
really starts to get better. The lower part of Red River is not
stocked but does hold an abundance of wild browns but rainbows
predominate. Further down stream near the confluence, browns are
the predominate species. Fishing is incredible with dry flies in
the evenings, terrestrials on hot afternoons, and nymph/wet
fly-fishing all day. Because of the near constant water
temperature, hatches of different insects occur year-round.
There is always a good chance to catch a "lunker" in the lower
part because of browns cruising upstream from the Rio Grande to
Rio Grande Gorge referred to by most, as "The Box" is about 70
miles long. The headwaters of the Rio Grande are in the San Juan
Mountains near Crede, Colorado. The Rio Grande Box is open
water, 30 to 40 feet wide at times, with very large boulders
throughout, and some vegetation along the banks, such as trees
and brush. The river is easily fishable with the possibility of
catching some very large fish. The Rio Grande also has a
population of northern pike but, the predominate fish are
browns. This stretch of the Rio Grande has special fishing
The fish are selective feeders
but persistence pays off. The dry fly fishing is quite good in
the evenings. Parts of the river widen to some very large, slow
pools that can be very productive. The entire area has deep
pools, deep runs, pocket water, and many holding areas for
trout. One thing to remember is when you are fishing nymphs,
fish them DEEP.
addition to hiking downstream from the Red River Hatchery, there
are several trails to access the Rio Grande Box and Red River
Box. One of the easiest trail is the 1.5 mile hike down from
Cebolla Mesa on the south side of the Red River. The trail ends
at the convergence of Red River and Rio Grande. To access this
trail, travel west on FR 9 from NM 522 for about three and a
half miles west to the Cebolla Mesa Campground to reach the
Additional trailheads are
accessed from the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River Recreation
Area: Sheep Crossing, Chiflo, Big Arsenic Springs, Little
Arsenic Springs, La Junta and El Aguaje, with La Junta being the steepest with several
short, steep switchbacks. Most are strenuous hikes but are more
than worth it. Hiking is a must to access both box canyons, but
what an incredible journey!
Go to the "Lower Rio Grande"
watershed description for information about the Rio Grande below
Cebolla Mesa trailhead. Go to the "Red River (Upper)" watershed
description for information east of Questa.
Take I-25 north from
Albuquerque exit at St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe, travel north
on US 84/285 to Espanola and travel north on NM 68 to Taos then
Take NM 522 to NM 515 to the Red River Fish hatchery (about 3
miles south of Questa to NM 515).