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Fields of Gold in Northern New Mexico’s Monsoon Season

Much of New Mexico is in drought, but signs of water abound near Taos.

Taos New Mexico wildflowers goldeneye drought monsoon
Photo © Brett Walton / Circle of Blue
Fields of showy goldeneye along Kit Carson Road in Taos, New Mexico. Click to see an enlarged image.

August is monsoon season in New Mexico, where bright morning skies give way to bulbous, anvil-topped thunderheads by late afternoon.

Here in Taos, a 45-minute drive south of Colorado, the clockwork rains nurture fields of showy goldeneye, lush mountain meadows, and cool streams.

Taos New Mexico thunderstorm drought rain meadow monsoon
Photo © Brett Walton / Circle of Blue
Afternoon thunderheads rise above the Taos Ski Valley. Click to see an enlarged image.

Some 97 percent of New Mexico is in one of the four drought categories assigned by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Yet less than half the state is in extreme or exceptional drought, down significantly from early July when I reported on the serious lack of moisture here.

A healthy monsoon has alleviated some of the worst dry patches, but with Elephant Butte Reservoir, a main storage facility on the Rio Grande, at only 4 percent full, the water supply situation remains perilous. Even in Taos, with storms almost every day, the Rio Pueblo is running well below normal.

This weekend, I’ll be driving along the Rio Grande Valley to southern New Mexico, where Elephant Butte is located. The landscape there promises to be far different than the flower show in Taos.

Taos New Mexico monsoon drought Rio Grande gorge
Photo © Brett Walton / Circle of Blue
The Rio Grande, flowing knee deep here, cuts a deep gorge through the basalt rock west of Taos. Click to see an enlarged image.
Author: Brett Walton  is a Seattle-based reporter for Circle of Blue. He writes our Federal Water Tap, a weekly breakdown of U.S. policy. Interests: Southwest, Pacific Northwest, Pricing, Infrastructure.

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