Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Southern Colorado (and northern New Mexico) Landscapes: Part 3

During their June overflight of the San Luis Valley and Southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Renée Rondeau and Lighthawk pilot Steve Paul also ventured south of the Colorado border to take a look at the Park Plateau and other landscapes in northern New Mexico.

On the border between Colorado and New Mexico, an extensive area of mesas and valleys on the eastern side of the southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains overlooks the grassy plains above the Cimarron River to the south. This is the Park Plateau, which is dominated by a matrix of montane woodland types interspersed with large grasslands or parks. The Park Plateau is home to the famous Vermejo Park Ranch, as well as the Valle Vidal Unit of the Carson National Forest.

Lorencito Canyon, near the border of Colorado and New Mexico. Some of the roads associated with energy development are visible amidst the ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer woodlands.

Looking over the shortgrass prairie to the east of the Park Plateau - three-armed Black mesa is visible in the upper right.

The edge of Eagle Tail Mesa. Slopes are wooded with pinyon-juniper, while shortgrass prairie covers the nearly flat mesa surface.

But it isn't all flat. In the middle of Eagle Tail Mesa is Eagle Tail Mountain. Here the mountain slopes support more pinyon-juniper, with a bit of ponderosa pine towards the top.

Before turning around to head back to the Park Plateau, Steve and Renée flew over the sharply demarcated canyon of the Canadian River.

Pinyon-juniper clad mesas flanking the Vermejo River. The Cimarron Range is on the horizon.

Further up the Vermejo River Valley - Vermejo Park is visible in the center distance, with the Culebra Range beyond.

Grasslands interspersed with ponderosa pine woodland. Some beetle-killed trees (brown) are visible on the right, but most ponderosa woodlands in the area appear to be in good condition.

The Valle Vidal, a beautiful montane grassland valley, flanked by aspen, mixed-conifer, bristlecone pine and spruce-fir forests.

And that wraps up our aerial tour of the San Luis Valley and surrounding landscapes. Thanks for joining us, and thanks once again to Lighthawk for the valuable service they provide.

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