Floods and The Ojo

The Rio Ojo Caliente, while short, is truly a wild river and other than through some irrigation diversion, is uncontrolled. The headwaters are near Hopewell Lake which is west of Tres Piedras. Overall, it drains about 419 square miles, about 400 of which lie upstream of The Ojo.

Summer rains frequently cause flash flooding, however, the majority of these floods remain in the riverbed. In July, 2014, a relatively small flood event that was localized within a few miles of The Ojo, washed a tremendous volume of silt into the riverbed. The channel of the Rio Ojo Caliente was filled completely for about two miles, The Ojo being smack in the middle. Two major flood events happened in the next two consecutive nights resulting in major Bosque flooding on The Ojo lands.

This was the 'perfect storm' of flash floods.

When you camp here in the rainy season, you should be aware that flooding of the river is likely to occur. Storms that are miles to the north can suddenly contribute large amounts of water into the Rio Ojo Caliente. This is the making of a flood. Although most of these floods remain in the riverbed, large ones will jump the banks. As a result water will flow across the normally dry Bosque grasses and through the cottonwood and willow forest. These floods spread rapidly and in themselves don't normally pose a threat to life and limb as they are rarely more than an inch or two deep unless in a collection channel.

You should know that Bosques are adapted to regular flooding, and need the water to thrive. Entrenchment of the river has made it increasingly difficult for the Bosque to flood and it seems now that it takes extraordinary rain events for this to occur. Having said that, it is obvious that we are living in a time of extraordinary events!

What can   YOU   do?

When you pitch a tent in the Bosque, you should know that it may be vulnerable to getting wet in a flashflood. A small amount of flowing water is all that it takes to inundate your tent and even collapse it. If you are camping in July, August and early September, you need to be aware of where you are putting your tent. Bosque floods are trying very hard to get back in to the riverbed. Look around for evidence of smaller channels that are moving water back and towards the river. This is a place you would likely choose to NOT put your tent.

Also look at the ground closely. Is there a lot of small debris that has been washed in to the area where you are standing? This is a clue that previous flood waters have collected there. Some areas of the floodplain are higher than others, and only a foot or even less may make the difference.

Below are some areas that over time have shown to miss most if not all recent Bosque floods. These are not guaranteed to miss floods of the future, but they seem to be relatively drier.

TAKE NOTE:  Major flood events, which are likely to jump the banks and flow into the Bosque, seldom come as a surprise. There are exceptions, of course, but generally heavy, rainy periods of days prior, lead up to big floods. The majority of this size flood occurs after dark. Bad if you are caught unawares, but good because there is often considerable lead time before these large floods reach our area. It is possible, and Dave tracks major storms on weather radar sites, to get a very good idea about the potential flooding that can be expected during such periods before they happen. Also it should be noted, that the amount of silt in the riverbed at any given time, is a foreteller of how much water the river can move downstream.

ABOUT 2019:

April update: Better than average snowpack and a cooler than average spring has resulted in moderate and sustained flows of up to 400cfs in the Rio Ojo Caliente. Expect the runoff to continue into May. Small children must be supervised at all times when near the river, on bridges etc.

The main campground area immediately adjacent to the parking area.
In the trees upstream of the main area and towards the hogan. Here the ground rises somewhat.

The new area near the 'Medicine Wheel' on the higher ground.

If it seems warranted, camping may be opened up nearer the pavilion.

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