But it is an essential body of water that meanders its way for miles down through Taos Canyon, across the heart of Taos and past Fred Baca Park. It feeds traditional irrigation ditches, succors farms and orchards along its length and sustains the wells that supply people living along its length from Valle Escondido to Ranchitos.
And the river is in trouble. It’s been hit over the last several years by drought, development and pollution.
Several groups and government entities have joined forces in recent years to restore and revive the river. The Río Fernando de Taos Revitalization Collaborative brings together individuals from several nonprofit organizations, traditional irrigators, the town of Taos, Taos County and Carson National Forest. They met recently to find out what people in the community think should be done to help the river’s watershed while protecting the rights of people who live along it. They have many projects proposed in the months to come – from working on the acequias to building trails and restoring wetlands. They host periodic work projects and public meetings, with ways for residents to get involved.
Amigos Bravos, one of the nonprofits working with the collaborative, also released a draft Río Fernando Watershed Based Plan Monday (Nov. 18). It is the culmination of water sampling along the river and testing for E. coli, one bacteria that signals water pollution and poor water quality. More than 300 samples taken as part of the Environmental Protection Act–funded plan found the primary sources of E. coli in the river were from contaminated stormwater runoff, humans, cattle, birds and dogs.
Two tables in the draft plan propose some projects and management actions for reducing and managing pollution in the river from different sources (Figures 6-1 and 7-1).
The public is invited to read the plan and comment on the proposed projects. Public comments should be emailed by Dec. 16 at 5 p.m. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rio Fernando is one of the rivers that makes the Taos Valley the beautiful place that it is. Read the plan. Explore the river and the projects hosted by the Río Fernando collaborative at riofernando.org.
Then look for ways to get involved.
A cottonwood’s next life
Two years ago, a dozen people from the community including some arborists, historians and tree lovers clasped hands around a more than half-century-old cottonwood tree in the heart of the historic Taos Plaza. The tree was dying. The town had decided – based on an arborist’s tests – that the tree was a hazard and needed to come down.
It was finally cut down a few weeks ago.
When some of the wood was hauled off to the landfill, one citizen – Ruthann McCarthy – raised a ruckus. It was disrespectful, she said, to just dump the old tree that had shaded several generations of Taoseños in the dump.
To the credit of the town and Mayor Dan Barrone, they listened. The mayor, at his own expense, retrieved the wood and delivered it to the McCarthy property known as the Rock House at 122 Paseo del Pueblo. When it is dry, artisans stand ready to carve the wood into statues and benches or make it into drums. Some of those may find their way back to the plaza, giving the old tree a new life.
Thanks are due to McCarthy for speaking up, to the town and the mayor for taking her seriously and to the Taoseños who helped retrieve the cottonwood pieces.
This tree was part of Taos Plaza history. It is right that it should have a chance to still be in the plaza, in a new form, enjoyed by new generations of Taoseños.
The Río Fernando de Taos is a thin wisp of a river by many standards.