Sitting Bull Falls

PART ONE

Location and Background

A 2012 requiem for Sitting Bull Falls as it is pictured here:

SO VERY, VERY SAD! I FOUND OUT TODAY (JUNE 16, 2012) THAT BECAUSE THE 2011 FIRE KILLED ALL TREES IN THIS BEAUTIFUL PLACE, IT WILL NOT HAVE MATURE TREES  AGAIN FOR SEVERAL HUMAN GENERATIONS!

But some of the Texas madrone trees will, apparently, come back contrary to what I was told when visiting the falls on 16 June 2012:

From the Lincoln National Forest website: "Many of the Texas Madrone trees died from the fire, and some are resprouting from the roots indicating the wildland fire was not as severe down by the water’s edge.  Only one Texas Madrone tree has re-sprouted from the trunk and branches which just might make it the ‘grandfather tree” in the area one day."

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Before moving to Carlsbad, New Mexico, I asked several people what natural wonders there were to go and visit while I lived in this area.

Recommendations seemed to always start with Sitting Bull Falls. Probably because it is closest, I thought.  I generated a list of about 12 places to go and explore from these recommendations.  So I decided to start as recommended, with Sitting Bull Falls, about 48 miles to the northwest of Carlsbad.

I was blown away with the beauty of the place, it reminded, on a smaller scale, of what the falls on the River Piedra do in Spain. Surrounded by rather dry hills the river falls into a small canyon and crates a beautiful, almost unreal garden of trees, flowers and grasses below.  It was taken as its home and contemplative garden by a religious order and even inspired me to write some fiction that takes place partly in its beautiful setting.  (the Piedra falls photos are here, the fiction is here [adult themes, not for children]).

So if these falls reminded me, on a smaller scale, of the Piedra falls in Spain (not far from Zaragosa), will I write some fiction taking place in this setting as well?  If I do I will revise this page and let you know.

In my pages about Guadalupe Mountains National Park, I described the structure of those mountains as being upthrust ancient reefs.  The mountain setting in which we find Sitting Bull Falls is an extension of those same upthrust ancient reef formations. Ancient here does not mean my age, but approximately 250 million years.  Here is a sign from Sitting Bull Falls briefly explaining the geology:

One of the canyons visited in the Guadalupes was Dog Canyon. Turns out where the trail from Sitting Bull Falls to Queen, New Mexico, ends is about 19 miles from the Dog Canyon campground.

The local desert here is the Chihuahuan desert, which is very different from the Sonoran desert (Arizona, with its big barrel cactuses) and also very different from the Mojave desert in California and Nevada (with its Joshua trees!).  The Chihuahuan desert is a green desert during the late Summer 'monsoon' when it gets its main rainfall for the year.  The Mojave is greener in late Winter and early Spring when it gets most of what it is going to get during a typical year, and the Sonoran gets most of its rain in Summer, but is not typically neglected in Winter either.

From visiting the desert around Chihuahua in Mexico I know that cacti and ocotillos are the dominant species in rocky, hilly areas, just like here in New Mexico (on the way to Sitting Bull Falls, in fact):

But the next photo shows that where the ground is not quite so rock-dominated, there is shrubbery and an yuccas.  This roadcut also shows the layered structure of the ancient sea reefs underlying all of this country, providing many pockets where oil is trapped, hence there are many oil pumps installed on wells all over this desert.

As elevation is gained and there is more soil, the vegetation changes into a grass and shrub land with trees wherever there happens to be a good water supply (typically near-surface, but still underground):

Soon enough we are driving through grassland with small oak trees toward even higher country (which we will visit on the last page in this series):

Then comes an intersection, and a right turn takes us toward a canyon, where the falls are located:

I think it is important to grasp that these falls are located in a dry area, it makes it more amazing to then arrive at them and see their impact in terms of stimulating and supporting copious life (including yours when you come to visit).

Go to PART TWO: Arriving at the The Falls

Go to PART THREE: The Falls

Go to PART FOUR: Lower Riparian Area

Go to PART FIVE: To the top and beyond

Go to PART SIX: Upper riparian area (springs!)

Go to PART SEVEN: Coming back for more: the grotto and pool

Go to PART EIGHT: Trail 68 Adventures

Go to PART NINE: Trail 214 adventures

Go to PART TEN: Queen, NM, and the Guadalupes

Go to PART ELEVEN: The top of Trail 68 near Queen

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