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Restoring the Río Fernando de Taos

Staci Matlock, Editor, Taos News

November 22, 2019

The Río Fernando de Taos is a thin wisp of a river by many standards.



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 sromeling@amigosbravos.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.