Guadalupe Canyon

Birding in the far southwest corner of New Mexico

Serious birders will go to the ends of the earth to get new bird for their life list, or to see a rare bird that they have only seen once or twice. It is nothing for them, therefore, to travel to the far ends of New Mexico to an isolated section of the Mexican border in the Guadalupe Mountains. In fact, the region is in such a far corner of New Mexico that you can't even reach it from the state. You have to come at it from Douglas, Arizona.

Shallow Guadalupe Canyon—it never reaches over 600 feet deep—is along the southern border of Coronado National Forest, and the BLM has declared it an outstanding natural area for its birding habitat.

For those who truly want solitude, the region is one of the best getaways in the Southwest. And if you get tired of the desert landscape in the canyon, you can hike to nearby Bunk Robinson Peak in the Peloncillo Mountains where the views cover large areas of New Mexico, Arizona, and Sonora and Chihuahua in Mexico.

The streams in the canyon and feeder side canyons flow intermittently during late summer and early fall after the summer thunderstorms, but there are no reliable water sources. With the summer storms, however, come flash floods—floods that can be devastating if you are not on your toes.

Avoid camping in the flats of the canyon floors, and listen for distant roaring when hiking in narrow areas. Floods don't have to follow downpours nearby. They frequently come from distant storms that drop vast amounts of water into the upper reaches of the drainage area. You may not even have been aware of a storm that sends thundering rivers of water down narrow canyons, picking up speed and power as they join together in the larger canyons below.

Although the solitude is great and the hiking is good, most people head for Guadalupe Canyon for the birding. Almost 160 species have been recorded in the canyon, and many of these are rarely seen in the U.S. Guadalupe Canyon is the far northern range of many of these species, including the buff-collared nightjar, thick-billed kingbird, fan-tailed warbler and elegant trogon. The birding is so good here that many birders think this region falls only slightly below Madera Canyon and Cave Creek in Arizona for quality, although it is not nearly as accessible.

Spring and fall are the busiest times in the canyon for migrating birds. High heat in summer keeps bird activity low, and winter is cold in the canyon, keeping both people and birds away.

Directions: Follow Geronimo Trail east from Douglas, Arizona for about 25 miles to Guadalupe Canyon Road. Take a right and continue to the New Mexico state line. Just past the state line, take a forest service road north for two miles to the canyon. Note: The entire route from Douglas is on improved dirt road.

Fee: This is a free area.

Camping: You may camp anywhere on BLM or national forest lands, but do not camp in washes or on canyon floors. Flash floods are a real danger in this area.

Lodging: The best bet for lodging is Douglas, Arizona.

For More Information Contact:

BLM Las Cruces District Office
1800 Marquess Street,
Las Cruces, NM 88005
(505) 525-4300.

© Article copyright Foghorn Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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