23-Dec-2000 -- The Mimbres River Confluence.
For my second confluence, I decided to bring my dad along who is
also a map and gadget nut like me. I figured that he would think that
this hunt would be a fun activity while we were down visiting for Christmas.
My wife Chris also went along for the ride. Although she doesn't get this
whole confluence thing, any excuse to get out in the country and takes
some pictures satisfies her. With the closest confluence to my parents
house just 18 miles away as the crow flies, this team of three set out to
conquer 33N 108W -- me the driver, Dad the navigator, and Chris the
A glorious morning with blue skies and warm temperatures greeted
us as we headed east on New Mexico Highway 152 from Silver City, past
the huge open-pit copper mine
at Santa Rita, then down into the Mimbres valley. Here, we turned north
on state highway 35 and followed the Mimbres River upstream. At this point
the valley contained a scenic mix of apple orchards and ranches in the
bottomlands, surrounded by pine, oak and juniper covered hillsides.
Matterhorn-shaped summit rose behind us to the southeast. As we traveled
north, passing the 20-house town of Mimbres, ranches replaced the orchards,
and ponderosa pine joined the oak, juniper, and pinon pine that we saw at
lower elevations. The Mimbres Valley is also well known for the prehistoric
Mimbres Indian culture that created intricate designs on their
beautiful black and white pottery.
From the maps, Dad knew that the we were to leave the highway at the
well-signed junction of McKnight Road to the right, north of Mimbres somewhere near
mile marker 12. We exited the black top at that point. Four roads immediately
converged there near some houses built next to some interesting sandstone
formations. The maps showed that the confluence was upstream about 4 miles
along the North Fork of the Mimbres River and that a 4-wheel drive road basically
followed to river all of the way to our destination. We immediately chose the
wrong road and started up a hill, realized our mistake, and returned to the correct one.
"Road" is a relative term. The rocks and ruts on this stretch would
definitely kill anything other than a high-clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle.
Fortunately, my Chevy Blazer was up to the task. Although the maps showed
that the road followed the river, in many spots, the road was the river. Like most
tree-lined streams in the Southwest, the Mimbres flows intermittently, except
during flash floods when it becomes a raging torrent. Some spots had flowing
water babbling on the surface for a while, only to sink underground and resurface
later. It was clear that flash floods had carried large rocks into the trail and washed
out other portions, but it was still passable at slow speeds. High water or mud
immediately after rain or snow would make this route impassable during less ideal
We headed up the road/river admiring the shallow pink sandstone cliffs lining this
canyon and their interesting shadows cast by the warm early winter sun. We
passed through an unlocked green metal gate at 3.31 miles from the confluence
and entered some ranch land.
At 1.99 miles away, we startled a flock of wild turkeys -- our first wildlife sighting
of the trip. Chris excitedly reached for her camera, but alas, they were gone before
she could get the picture. She now resolved to keep the camera ready and loaded
for any future wildlife sightings. This paid off later in the trip.
Disappointed at missing a picture of the turkeys, we continued on past a windmill
at 1.91 miles. Our speed did not exceed a couple of miles per hour since the route
was quite rocky crossing the river many times. We crossed an unlocked barbed
wire gate .91 miles from the confluence and took the left branch of a fork back
toward the river watching the GPS count off the distance. The route crossed the
river, followed it for a while, then continued straight to about 50 feet from the
confluence point. After slightly overshooting it we got out to find "the spot."
As I would read the GPS and say things like "30 feet to the southeast,"
Dad would race ahead to try to get to the confluence before I did. Chris laughed
as we repeated this routine until we honed in on location and eventually nailed it.
We found it in a patch of ponderosa pine and juniper that really block the incredible
scenery that surrounds this spot. We took our pictures, Chris and I kissed on the
confluence and we were ready for the return trip knowing that we had claimed it.
The wild turkeys apparently thought that we would never make it back, so they
returned from their hiding places. About 15 of these large dark birds watched us from
the hillside. Chris got out of the car and immediately began snapping pictures of them.
They made her trip to the confluence worthwhile.
As we returned to the blacktop, a red fox provided our final wildlife sighting for the trip.
He posed in the sunlight for a picture. Fortunately for the turkeys, he was a couple of
miles from where we sighted them so they were not destined to become Christmas
dinner for a family of foxes.
Accessibility = 3 (moderately difficult) 4-wheel drive high clearance vehicle required.
Otherwise a 4 mile hike is required. Not passable after heavy rain due to high water or
mud. Gates were unlocked at our visit, but may be closed in the future.
Terrain = 3 (rough)
Scenery = A. (Much more scenic that the pictures would lead you to believe.)