SANTA FE ― Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, the official Friends Group and Cooperating Association for the Valles Caldera National Preserve, will begin offering a series of 16 guided wildlife viewing and backcountry van tours through the preserve 4-8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 15 to Oct. 20.
These tours are made possible through the efforts of Los Amigos to enhance visitor experience on the preserve.
General reservations begin Saturday, Aug. 25. Tickets for adults are $48 and $38 for youth (12 and under). Seats must be reserved online in advance through eventbrite.com. All ticket sale proceeds will be used to support science, education, interpretation, and ecological restoration activities on the preserve.
Tours begin at 4 p.m. at the Valle Grande Entrance Station and will last approximately four hours. Following an interpretive talk and orientation presented by National Park Service staff and volunteers, participants will set out by van across fifteen miles of the preserve’s backcountry, meandering through the many lesser-known valles between the historic cabin district and San Antonio Creek. Along the way, participants may encounter some of the preserve’s inhabitants, such as Rocky Mountain elk, Gunnison prairie dog, coyote, mountain bluebird, raptor species, and possibly black bear, badger, and bald eagle.
The Valles Caldera is a core breeding area for the Jemez Mountains elk herd – the second largest in the state of New Mexico. The breeding season or “rut”, which takes place between September and October, consists of males bugling, wallowing and thrashing, digging, and rubbing antlers. Dusk is the best time of day to try to catch a glimpse of these behaviors and hear their calls.