The Best of the Southwest!
After thousands of years of Native American settlement, the land which is now New Mexico was claimed for the Spanish Crown in 1540. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado marched up the Rio Grande in search of riches he was never to find. He proclaimed the “Kingdom of New Mexico” and left. Over 50 years later the Spanish settlers and missionaries returned to this land, this time not searching for gold, but searching for a home. They eventually settled in 1610 at a strategic location at the southern terminus of the Rocky Mountains, along an ancient trade route that connected the nomadic Comanches and Kiowa (of the plains) to the settled “Pueblo” Indians (of the Rio Grande and its tributaries). They called this place Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asis. Today we call it Santa Fe. It has remained through the Spanish, the Mexican, and the Americans as the oldest capitol city in the United States.
The Santa Fe Trail connected Spanish America with the expanding United States in Missouri on the Mississippi River. The Old Spanish Trail traveled westward, connecting the Spanish settlements of New Mexico with the newer missions on the California Coast. It travels along an inhospitable route over 1000 miles of mountains, deserts, and deep canyons. Abiquiu was one of the first stops on the Old Spanish Trail. It was the third largest Spanish settlement in the 1730’s. Stories of witchcraft are legendary in this area. The King of Spain granted 21,000 acres of land to Pedro Martin Serrano in 1766 near Abiquiu which was eventually to become known as “El Rancho de Los Brujos” or Ghost Ranch. Georgia O’Keeffe came to this area in 1949 and stayed until her death in 1989. Inspired by her surroundings, she left a body of work unparalleled by any female artist of her time.
Some of Georgia’s favorite subjects were the dried, sun-baked bones that she found out on the naked red earth. Other bones have been found in this area, those of dinosaurs. The quarries around Ghost Ranch are still being excavated today, contributing to our knowledge of the large reptiles that once roamed this Earth. The finest remains of one in particular, Coelophysis, have been found in this area, swept up in ancient flash floods and buried by the herd in the mud.
This part of New Mexico is also well known for ancient human settlements. Large villages flourished at this edge of the pine forest and the ruins of the ancestral Pueblo people are here and there for us to explore and wonder about. The choices of their building sites and the reasons for their disappearance have left us all with many questions. There is little doubt about their use of the mineral springs at Ojo Caliente and their settlement they built close by. They were there, as we are today, for the healing waters.
Taking a trip to New Mexico feels like going as far as one can go in the United States without ever having to cross a border. With its other-worldly landscapes and unique culture, it is no wonder this 47th state of ours is well known as the "Land of Enchantment".
Hiking, river rafting (float trip) and optional easy river kayaking
- Be inspired by the otherworldly, dramatic beauty of the New Mexico landscape
- Explore the ancient settlements of the Anasazi people
- A 23-mile float down the Wild and Scenic Rio Chama, including inflatable kayaks and safari-style camping!
- Gorgeous rock formations, shady forests, and brilliant sunshine; that's Northern New Mexico
Duration: 8 days Start Location: Santa Fe End Location: Santa FeDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Our meeting place is Santa Fe. At 7000 feet, Santa Fe is the country’s highest state capital. The mountains climb to over 12,000 feet behind the 400 year old city, which sits at the southern boundary of the Rocky Mountain range.
It is easy to transfer from the Albuquerque airport and arrive about an hour later in Santa Fe. Your hotel room will be waiting for you, and you are free to begin your exploration of the 'City Different' and dine in one of the many choices of historic restaurants in the downtown area.
Day 2 : Abiquiu-O'Keeffe Country
This morning we meet with our guide at 9:00am in the lobby of the Inn of the Governors. We begin our travels along the Old Spanish Trail . Within an hour's drive we come to Abiquiu (elevation 6,066') and spend the afternoon hiking through the terrain where Georgia O'Keeffe came to paint.
Day 3 : Ghost Ranch
We ascend the sandstone and limestone mesas near Ghost Ranch, and with every step we travel backward thousands of years. It’s no suprise that many dinosaur bones have been found in this area. The higher we climb the more recent the rocks are. Today we’ll walk through over 100 million years of geological time!
Day 4 : Río Chama—Wild & Scenic River
Put in and start our float trip through the Chama River Canyon Wilderness. The walls of the Chama canyon are a striking array of colors from yellow to maroons, marking the distinct layers of sedimentary rock.
We will have the option (included as part of the trip) to paddle in inflatable kayaks! The gentleness of the Rio Chama makes it a great river to paddle, even for beginners!
Day 5 : Chama River Canyon Wilderness
Awake to the sounds of the canyon waters and the birds in the trees. Enjoy fine cuisine and our safari-style camp environment. Today we‘ll continue our float down the river, choosing to lounge in the big rafts or to take on the river in our inflatable kayaks.
The United States Congress designated the Chama River Canyon Wilderness in 1978 and it now has a total of 50,300 acres. All of this wilderness is located in New Mexico and is managed by the Forest Service. Along our float down the Chama we will stop to explore the forests and side canyons that comprise the wilderness.
Day 6 : Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa
After we wrap up our float trip and say goodbye to the Chama, we move toward Ojo Caliente (the “hot eye”), where warm and hot mineral springs have been used for healing for over a thousand years.
Day 7 : Bandelier National Monument
Adolph Bandelier, an archaeologist, came to the Pajarito Plateau to study one of the densest archaeological sites in the United States. With our guide we will hear some of the stories of the people who inhabited these canyons. We return to Santa Fe in the afternoon to our hotel near the plaza and share a farewell dinner in a southwestern restaurant.
Day 8 : Depart Santa Fe
Depart for home.
(Warning: you may decide not to depart Santa Fe. Some people extend their stay and explore the town’s rich history, abundance of museums, art galleries, and unique cuisine.)
DATES: Best time to go: May - September Departures: No group departures scheduled. Private departures are available on the dates of your choice, pending availablity. Call us for details.
$2,895 (6-12 members)
Inn of the GovernorsSanta Fe, New Mexico
Inn of the Governors is located two blocks from the historic Plaza, and Santa Fe's best galleries, shops, and restaurants. The Inn is beautifully decorated with hand-carved furnishings, locally made artwork, in an ambient garden setting. Amenities include complimentary “Mountain Sunrise” breakfast buffet, parking, Tea and Sherry service, internet access, and an outdoor heated pool. Del Charro Saloon offers a lite fare in a charming bar and patio.
Abiquiu InnAbiquiu, New Mexico
The valley of the Rio Chama River is rich with history. Abiquiu and the surrounding area has long been a tribal gathering place, even before the Anasazi settled here more than a thousand years ago. From the ancient Anasazi tribes to the 20th-century art of Georgia O’Keeffe, the area has long been a captivating destination for visitors. The Abiquiu Inn is part of that tradition, becoming a desert sanctuary for artists, writers, nature lovers and guests seeking solitude and enlightenment in northern New Mexico.
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & SpaOjo Caliente, New Mexico
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa sits in the Ojo Caliente River valley. There is an unexcavated Native American ruin just a short walk from the springs . People have sought out the healing waters of Ojo Caliente for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Christa Sadler is a geologist, educator, river guide and writer with a serious addiction to rivers, deserts, mountains and chocolate. Christa has been guiding on the rivers of the West since 1986, and although she has a home in Flagstaff, Arizona, she's hardly ever there. Her research in archaeology, geology and paleontology has taken her around the globe, including searching for dinosaurs in Montana, fighting off dust storms and overly curious camels in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, and steering clear of annoyed marine iguanas in the Galapagos Islands. Christa also runs ‘This Earth,” a small business that brings geology and fossil programs to students aged K-12 around the country. She loves to write about geology, rivers, fossils and the land, and she has published several books and articles. She teaches and guides in the spring and fall, and escapes to Alaska in the summers to guide and write. Winters are usually spent recovering. Or sea kayaking in Baja California.